At Cherokee Nation and across America, we recognize November as Diabetes Awareness Month.
It is estimated that one in 10 Americans has diabetes. In Indian Country, the numbers are even higher, with more than one in six of the adult population affected. During Diabetes Awareness Month, we go the extra mile to educate Cherokees about this serious disease.
Throughout the year, we are proactive in the prevention and treatment of diabetes among Cherokee citizens. The Special Indian Diabetes Program is one of the most effective resources for American Indians dealing with diabetes. SDPI is a federal grant available to tribes across the country, and Cherokee Nation operates the nation’s largest SDPI program with approximately 11,000 patients. Nationally, SDPI has helped reduce new cases of kidney failure by half and diabetes-related deaths by more than a third. Among Cherokee Nation Health’s diabetic patients, we have achieved a control rate of almost 70%.
This is a classic example of preventative care that saves lives and lowers costs for everyone. Cherokee Nation is maximizing every dollar to provide high-quality health care, including helping our people meet the rising cost of diabetes treatments and medications. We also invest in wellness accessibility, such as walking trails and enhanced community centers that provide exercise options and nutrition education on our 7,000 square mile reserve.
When we talk about dramatic and positive lifestyle changes, no one epitomizes this better than District 8 Tribal Council member Shawn Crittenden. which changed his life. He was hospitalized in critical condition. Fortunately, our team of medical experts put him on the road to recovery.
But Shawn didn’t stop there. He vowed to his family and constituents that he would commit to healthier living. As a true leader and great example to our people, he drastically changed his diet, losing 70 pounds and emerging from his health crisis much stronger. Our team helped him with nutrition and self-management training, exercise ideas and medical support.
Without a doubt, the Cherokee Nation Diabetes Program is one of our most successful public health initiatives. But we don’t do it alone. We work with many state and community partners, supporting public school education and activities, like Farm-to-School, to reduce the risk of diabetes for our youngest Cherokees. By developing good habits early on, we can avoid the worst complications of diabetes later in life, including heart attacks, strokes, blindness, amputations and kidney failure.
As part of 2022 Awareness Month, Cherokee Nation plans to offer screening events at each of our nine clinics. As Council Member Crittenden showed us, we can overcome health issues to extend our lives and the time we need to spend with loved ones. Together, we can become healthier Cherokees and a healthier Cherokee Nation.
Chuck Hoskin Jr. is the main chief of the Cherokee Nation.