Native Country as a whole is affected by a higher rate of diabetes than any other population. The Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) was established by Congress in 1997 in order to specifically address the diabetes epidemic in Native Americans. According to the Indian Health Service, more than 780,000 patients are served each year under the program. In 2017, SDPI funding in Oklahoma totaled $23.4 million to support 27 Community-Directed Grant Programs.

Over the years, SDPI has proven to be highly effective in curbing the rate of diabetes in our native population and reducing potentially costly treatments paid by Medicare later on. It is changing the course of diabetes and helping people live healthier lives.

Because of the success of SDPI, obesity and diabetes rates in Native American youth have not increased in more than 10 years and diabetes rates in Native American adults have not increased since 2011. Diabetic eye disease rates decreased 50 percent, reducing vision loss and blindness.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes is the cause of kidney failure in approximately two out of every three Native Americans struggling with the disease. Between 1996 and 2013, the rate of kidney failure from diabetes in Native Americans dropped by 54 percent thanks to this program.

Prevention is the key to staying healthy and SDPI has been instrumental in educating people on lifestyle changes and other ways to reduce the risk of diabetes. I am grateful for the men and women who operate SDPI grant programs, and their continued efforts to ensure our native communities receive the preventative care they need to stay healthy.

I recently introduced a bill, H.R. 2680, that would reauthorize the program for five years and increase funding for the program from $150 million to $200 million. Currently, the program is set to expire on September 30, 2019 if action is not taken.

SDPI has proven to be effective and we need to further invest in the program to continue to build on its success.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) represents the second district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached through http://mullin.house.gov, and at 3109 Azalea Park Drive, Muskogee, OK, 74401, 918-687-2533 or 202-225-2701