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Participants in a health and wellness walk are cheered on during the National Congress of American Indians 76th annual convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on October 23, 2019. Photo by Kevin Abourezk
Diabetes program for Indian Country set to lose funds again
Thursday, September 14, 2023

The Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) is about to run out of money, again.

Since 1997, tribes and urban Indian organizations have used the program to create specialized prevention and treatment programs in their communities. The result has been a significant reduction in diabetes among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN), who have suffered disproportionately from the disease.

“Since the beginning of SDPI, blood sugar levels have decreased, risk factors of cardiovascular disease have been reduced, diabetes-related kidney disease has been cut by more than half, and primary prevention and weight management programs for Native youth have increased,” the Pueblo of Isleta, a federally-recognized tribe in New Mexico, wrote in a letter of support to the U.S. Congress.

“Nation-wide AI/AN diabetes prevalence decreased from 15.4% to 14.6% between 2013 and 2017,” the tribe continued. “National data reflect the excellent outcomes in Native Nations resulting from innovative local level programs.”

Despite the success of diabetes efforts in Indian Country, Congress has repeatedly failed to reauthorize the SDPI for extended periods of time. That means the money will once again run out at the end of September 2023.

“Currently, 31 urban Indian organizations (UIOs) receive SDPI funding that enables UIOs to provide necessary services that reduce the incidence of diabetes-related illness among urban Indian communities,” the National Council of Urban Indian Health said in an action alert on Thursday.

Currently, two bills in the 118th Congress would reauthorize SDPI at $170 million per year for two years. Tribes and their advocates are asking the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to pass H.R.3561 and S.1855 in order to keep the program alive before funding runs out on September 30.

Sample letters for contacting members of Congress are available from NCUIH and the National Indian Health Board

The last time Congress reauthorized SDPI was in 2000. The extension provided $150 million a year for three years.

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