Diabetes is quickly replacing issues of alcohol abuse as the leading health problem for American Indians and Alaska Natives. America’s Indigenous peoples have the nation’s highest rates of diabetes.
The Indian Health Service, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is devoting considerable attention to this issue. IHS just completed a five year demonstration project that indicates that risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease can be reduced among American Indians/Alaska Natives.
The IHS implemented the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) Diabetes Prevention and Healthy Heart Demonstration Projects in response to the diabetes epidemic in AI/AN communities.
Congress created the SDPI in 1997 to fund prevention and treatment services in IHS, tribal, and urban Indian health programs.
In 2004, Congress established the Demonstration Projects as an additional initiative to apply research findings in real-world settings to prevent diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Sixty-six grants were funded that served 110 tribal communities.
The project used a method adapted for Native patients, and people at risk for diabetes were encouraged to lose weight through physical activity, healthy eating habits, and individual and group coaching. On average, those who completed the follow-up assessment had a significantly reduced eight-year risk of developing diabetes.
For more information on the SDPI and the Diabetes Prevention and Healthy Heart Initiatives, see http://www.ihs.gov/MedicalPrograms/Diabetes/index.cfm?module=programsSDPI.