Interview: War on diabetes in Indian Country

Dorreen Yellow Bird of The Grand Forks Herald interviews Dr. Monica Mayer about Mayer's efforts to combat diabetes in Indian Country.

Dorreen Yellow Bird: From your experience as a physician in private practice on the Fort Berthold Reservation, tell us about diabetes.

Mayer: When the general public hears about the health problems of American Indians, one of the first things that comes to mind is diabetes. About 15 percent of adult American Indians have diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease in which the pancreas fails to produce insulin. Most American Indians who have diabetes are Type 2, or noninsulin dependent, and typically will get diabetes about age 40.

Yellow Bird: What kind of trends are you seeing?

Mayer: What I'm seeing right now is younger and younger dialysis patients. Couple that with the high rates of obesity among children, and it's mindboggling to think what this generation is going to be like when they're 40.

Several years ago, a tribal chairman called for a “war on diabetes.” It didn't work, but I think it is a fabulous idea.

I believe that if tribal chairmen throughout the state would proclaim a war on diabetes for three years, develop measurable outcomes and examine those outcomes, we could find out what worked and what didn't work. That would be verifiable data and could be shared with tribal officials and North Dakotans.

You can't fight a war against a disease with just doctors and nurses; you have to have lawmakers, the governor and other state officials. Diabetes isn't just an Indian disease."

Get the Story:
PRAIRIE VOICES: Diabetes: Scourge of the reservation (The Grand Forks Herald 11/18)