Everyone agrees that the program should be extended, but Congress cannot seem to agree on the long-term funding – and stability – supporters say the program needs. “While demonstrably effective, the diabetes program has suffered in recent years from a series of short-term reauthorizations and stagnant funding that’s hindered the program’s full potential,” said Sen. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, during the hearing. Uncertain funding chokes prevention efforts – a major detriment when “long-term strategies are key to successfully getting type-two diabetes rates in check.” The program was created in 1997 and has been extended for as long as five years at a time, but recently Congress has moved toward short-term extensions. The most recent extensions have lasted months and the latest, which would include the program in a stopgap budget resolution, would extend it just 11 days, from November 30 to December 11. McSally introduced a bill [S.3937] co-sponsored by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, to increase funding and extend for five years the decades-long program that has been wildly successful in improving diabetes rates in Native American communities across the country. Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Sedona, has introduced a similar bill in the House. [H.R.2680] When it was up for renewal last year, it passed with more than 80% of the House vote and over 70% of the Senate, astonishing levels of support in the current partisan climate, said Stacy Bohlen, executive director of the National Indian Health Board.
Since it was created in 1997, the Special Diabetes Program for Indians has shown great success in reducing the rate of type 2 diabetes in tribal communities while improving overall health. Thank you to @lisamurkowski for cosponsoring my bill to reauthorize this important program. https://t.co/Nbtgasiifq— Martha McSally (@SenMcSallyAZ) September 29, 2020
If the program is not extended, “dire isn’t even the appropriate word for how serious it would be,” Bohlen said. “Nobody’s getting those kind of numbers,” Bohlen said of the program’s positive results. “Tribes are knocking this out of the park and, instead of being rewarded for that, they’re being knocked down.” The Hopi first received federal diabetes program funding in 1998. Their program focuses on reducing obesity, improving nutrition, addressing food insecurity and promoting physical fitness – all diabetes-prevention measures. Tribes and health advocates have been seeking long-term reauthorization for years, in addition to an increase in funding. The annual $150 million budget has a third less buying power than it did in 2004, the last time Congress increased its funding. There’s “an appetite” on Capitol Hill to renew the program for five years, said Meredith Raimondi, director of congressional affairs for the National Council of Urban Indian Health. But the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with an election year, has delayed what was already a slow process. “Everything that was moving forward … got pushed to the back burner,” Raimondi said.
Studies have shown that those with type 1 diabetes have a higher chance of dying from COVID-19. The SDPI provides grants to special health services for diabetic patients. Urge Congress to reauthorize this program so lives can be saved. pic.twitter.com/A7R544ACNa— NIHB (@NIHB1) October 1, 2020
Note: This story originally appeared on Cronkite News. It is published via a Creative Commons license. Cronkite News is produced by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
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