By: Judy Sarasohn, HHS (Public Affairs)
The tribal elder at Fort Berthold Reservation in western North Dakota had struggled with his diabetes for years. His blood glucose level was about twice what’s considered normal, his blood pressure was dangerously high, and he was overweight.
His health care provider talked to him about the need to address his diabetes and he was included in the tribal clinic’s diabetes registry, so they wouldn’t lose track of him. But he just didn’t take the steps necessary to manage his condition. Until one day, it apparently clicked.
Jared Eagle, Director of the Indian Health Service’s Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SPDI) at the reservation in New Town, said the man finally started taking advantage of the resources and care provided through the clinic. He started walking more; lost 20 to 30 pounds; and reduced his blood glucose and blood pressure levels.
“You can see him walking every day. He’s walking his dog every day, even in the winter,” Eagle said.
The story of this elder of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation (also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes) reflects the significant progress being made in Indian Country where Native Americans have a greater chance of having diabetes and kidney failure resulting from diabetes than any other U.S. racial or ethnic group, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nonetheless, the CDC also reported recently that kidney failure among Native Americans dropped by 54 percent between 1996 and 2013, the fastest rate for any racial or ethnic group in the U.S.