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Forced upon us

Phil Bautista has set out to inform Indian country about the Diabetes Research Institute and its mission to cure the disease.

“Diabetes is the number one killer in our people (American Indians) today and I want people to open their eyes. We have to stop it.”

Bautista believes diabetes was first introduced to American Indians when they were put on reservations and given government commodity food. American Indians were given lard and flour to cook with, which were not in their daily diet before, he said.

“We didn’t have diabetes before commodity food was forced upon us. Today, diabetes can shorten our life span by 15 years and the death rate of Natives is three times higher than any other race.”

According to the IHS Division of Diabetes Treatment and Prevention, there was a 68 percent increase in diabetes in 15 to 19-year-old American Indians and Alaska Natives from 1994 – 2004. In 2005, 1,758 American Indians and Alaska Natives under the age of 19 were diagnosed with diabetes.

For nearly four decades, the Diabetes Research Institute has been making significant contributions to the field of diabetes research and has pioneered new therapies to restore insulin production in those living with this disease.

There has been a 58 percent increase in diabetes among 20 to 29-year-old American Indians and Alaska Natives from 1990-1998, compared to 9.1 percent in the general United States population. And 16 percent of adults have been diagnosed with diabetes compared to 8.7 percent of non-Hispanic whites, according to the DDTP.

Bautista is an Aztec Indian from Milwaukee, Wis. He has been working with the foundation for a year as a special assistant to the president of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, which raises money to fund research at the institute.

In 1971, DRIF, a nonprofit organization, was created by a small group of parents that had children with diabetes who wanted to put an end to the disease.

The Diabetes Research Institute started out as a research program at the University of Miami with just a couple scientists. DRIF raised enough money to turn the research program into the Diabetes Research Institute in Hollywood, Fla.

Lori Weintraub, DRIF’s vice president of marketing and communications, said DRI has evolved into the most comprehensive research center of its kind and is a recognized world-leader in the search for a cure.

“While there are other organizations helping people live with it, treat it and be educated, we are focused on curing it.”

There are a lot of aspects to diabetes such as managing the disease, educating people about the disease and preventing complications, Weintraub said. In each area there are subsets to it like eating right, exercising and dealing with it mentally, she added.

“Imagine a whole supermarket filled with different aspects of diabetes. On the aisle focused on a cure, that is where the institute is, we are the aisle of hope.”

For nearly four decades, the Diabetes Research Institute has been making significant contributions to the field of diabetes research and have pioneered new therapies to restore insulin production in those living with this disease, Weintraub said.

“The institute is credited with changing the international research paradigm by ensuring that promising research findings in the lab can be “translated” to patients in the fastest, safest and most efficient way possible.”

DRI has also collaborated with other researchers worldwide in a global network called the Diabetes Research Institute Federation. The institute works with other researchers with expertise in diabetes research and other disciplines for curing the disease.

Bautista said when it comes to diabetes, Native Americans need to start looking at themselves and re verse it. Bautista was 6 feet 4 inches tall, 300 pounds and taking four shots of insulin a day before he decided to do something about it. He said he started watching his carbohydrate intake and joined Weight Watchers to support his wife. Now he weighs 195 pounds and does not take any insulin shots.

“We need to start telling people, ‘hey we can stop this and cure it.’ I think if we can get enough people to really look at the Diabetes Research Institute, we can put a stop to diabetes and really turn it around.”

For more information visit the Web site or contact Phil Bautista at phil@fivehawk.com or (414) 688-6443.