Key Indian Health Issues: Diabetes
Diabetes is a group of diseases marked by high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production, insulin action, or both. Diabetes can lead to serious complications and premature death, but people with diabetes can take steps to control the disease and lower the risk of complications.
American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) have a high prevalence and incidence of chronic disease (e.g., diabetes, obesity, and gallbladder disease), relative to the general United States population. Age-adjusted prevalence rates of diagnosed diabetes and obesity are three and two times higher, respectively, for AI/ANs than for non-Hispanic whites. About 15.1 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives aged twenty years and older and receiving care from the Indian Health Service (IHS) have diabetes. High rates of disease in AI/ANs seem to correspond to a high prevalence of behavioral risk factors such as poor diet, physical inactivity and smoking.
Although type 2 diabetes can occur in youth, the nationally representative data that would be needed to monitor diabetes trends in youth by type are not available. Clinically-based reports and regional studies suggest that type 2 diabetes, although still rare, is being diagnosed more frequently in children and adolescents, particularly in American Indians, African Americans, and Hispanic/Latino Americans.
In response to this key health issue, Tribes in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington have joined together to address this problem.