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Diabetes on the Rise

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Within the past two years, diabetes rates increased by more than 3 million people, now affecting approximately 24 million across the United States, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Another 57 million people are estimated to have pre-diabetes, a condition putting people at risk of developing full-blown diabetes.

High rates are densely concentrated in particular geographic communities, especially those dominated by minority populations prone to the disease like Native Americans, blacks and Hispanics, as the CDC map of "County Level Estimates of Diagnosed Diabetes" illustrates.

More than 16 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives aged 20 and older have diagnosed diabetes, compared to a national average of seven percent, states a National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) study.

The diabetes-induced sugar build-up in the body is the seventh leading cause of death in the country. It can also lead to serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations.

That's why Senator Byron Dorgan, D.-N.D., doesn't think Congress should take it lightly. One issue that deserves more attention and needs to make the congressional “must do” list: reauthorizing the Special Diabetes Program, writes Sen. Byron Dorgan, D.-N.D., in the

“Without the assurance that the program will be funded next year, life-saving research and crucial programs for American Indians will begin to wind down and then close their doors,” Sen. Dorgan stresses in his op-ed. “Renewing it needs to be a top priority for Congress in the ‘lame-duck’ session.”

Citing soaring diabetes rates nationwide and especially within North Dakota, Sen. Dorgan hits on the increasingly high medical costs. “This awful disease costs North Dakota over $300 million. It costs our nation $174 billion each year in direct and indirect medical costs alone. Those numbers are expected to triple in the next 25 years!”

According to the The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) website, funding for the Special Diabetes Program was appropriated by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, in collaboration with multiple National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for research on the prevention and cure of type 1 diabetes in the amount of $1.59 billion for Fiscal Year (FY) 1998 through FY 2011.

“The Special Diabetes Program has proved a smart federal investment, leading to important discoveries and clinical advancements in Type 1 Diabetes (which usually affects kids) and also providing crucial and often life-saving programs for American Indians, who are afflicted by the disease at rates far greater than the general population,” Sen. Dorgan writes.

Urging congress to approve his legislation to reauthorize the Special Diabetes Program before the “lame-duck” session ends this year, Sen. Dorgan praises the Special Diabetes Program’s efforts: “It is fighting — and winning — against a debilitating and sometimes even deadly disease that that has been growing like a wildfire for decades. Now is no time to stop.”