Today, U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA), delivered the following remarks at a committee oversight hearing on “Native Youth: Promoting Diabetes Prevention through Healthy Living.”
The hearing featured testimony from Rear Admiral Chris Buchanan, acting director of the Indian Health Service; the Honorable Vinton Hawley, chair of the National Indian Health Board; Mr. Jared Eagle, program director of the Fort Berthold Diabetes Program; Mr. Martin Sensmeier, actor and ambassador for the Boys & Girls Club of America; Mr. Alton Villegas, tribal youth from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community; and Ms. Rachel Seepie, senior fitness specialist for the Diabetes Service Program at Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
Senator Hoeven’s remarks:
“Today the committee will hold an oversight hearing on ‘Native Youth: Promoting Diabetes Prevention through Healthy Living.’
“In 1997, Congress authorized the Special Diabetes Program for Indians to address the extraordinary prevalence of diabetes among Indians. It is now in its 20th year and up for reauthorization this year.
“This program has demonstrated significant inroads in reducing diabetes and its complications, such as limb amputations, heart disease and kidney failure.
“However, there is still more work to be done. Indian people have a greater chance of being diagnosed with diabetes than any other racial or ethnic group in the country. It is the fifth leading cause of death for Native people.
“This disease is now afflicting the youth. Native youth are reportedly 9 times higher than non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes – and the related complications of heart disease, kidney failure, and other diseases.
“I look forward to hearing from our witnesses regarding why, according to Indian Health Service information – and during the existence of this Special Program – the rates of diabetes among the youth have increased and obesity rates have stayed the same.
“As we know, obesity is one indicator for the future risk of becoming diabetic. If it is not decreasing, then before we reauthorize this program and talk about a funding authorization level, we need to examine how well this special program is serving the Native youth.
“We know, on the bright side, Type 2 diabetes is both preventable and manageable – particularly through healthy living.
“Healthier lifestyles can help improve blood glucose levels, decrease obesity rates, lower blood pressure, and decrease bad cholesterol levels for our youth.
“Today we look forward to hearing from our witnesses on how they are making a difference in the lives of Native youth and any improvements needed for this special program.
“We must work together to prevent further diabetes prevalence in Indian Country and continue the good work that is currently being done.”