For Native Americans, fighting diabetes means fighting the federal government for their fair share of health care funds
Theresa Halsey, a member of the Hunkpapa Lakota tribe and producer of the Indian Voices radio show on KGNU, has been dealing with diabetes for a couple of decades. In 2000, she decided to visit Denver Indian Health and Family Services to get tested. That’s where her journey with the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) began.
Through SDPI, Halsey attends classes for diabetes management. She learns how to navigate the produce section of the grocery store and how to cook vegetables. She sees what healthy portion sizes look like, and she gets to participate in monthly challenges that promote healthy living. For November, she’s vowed to drink water every day — no sugary drinks allowed.
Halsey insists SDPI has helped her adopt healthier habits in her and her children’s lives. Yet, as much of an impact as this program might have in bettering her health, the federal government has been less than enthusiastic when it comes to acknowledging its significance.
In October, Congress renewed funds for SDPI, but only until Dec. 31. Despite the program’s success, renewal periods only last months at a time between Congressional debates regarding its funding. While the current state of government support looks bleak, researchers at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus and members of the SDPI community are committed to making sure the Native voice isn’t lost.
“People need to be lobbying their states because that’s where the actual money will be coming down from; not that much money is coming from the [federal] government,” Halsey says.
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