At a Glance: The Special Diabetes Program

Did you know that nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, and another 79 million have prediabetes? If current trends continue, one in three Americans will face a life with diabetes by 2050. The Special Diabetes Program (SDP) is making great strides to reverse this epidemic, as highlighted in a recent article featured in the journal Clinical Diabetes. Click here to read the full article.

The SDP is a federally-funded measure which aims to accelerate research toward prevention, improved treatment,and a cure for type 1 diabetes and to address the disproportionate burden of type 2 diabetes in American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) populations. Over the past 12 years, both initiatives have shown a marked return on the investment of federal dollars.

SDP Type 1–funded research has made it possible for people with type 1 diabetes to live longer and healthier lives, thanks to treatment advances made possible by the program.  For instance, SDP Type 1–funded research recently led to the discovery that vision loss can be reversed in people with diabetic retinopathy through a combination of drug and laser therapy. SDP Type 1 funding also provides 100% of the funding for The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY) study, which aims to track individuals’ infectious, dietary, and other exposures and life experiences; yielding the potential to revolutionize the ability to prevent type 1 diabetes and have an enormously positive impact on public health through a diet change or vaccine for disease prevention. Other SDP Type 1–sponsored research programs include: 

  • SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study
  • Type 1 Diabetes Genetics Consortium
  • TrialNet
  • NIDDK’s Beta Cell Biology Consortium
  • Improvements to continuous glucose monitoring devices

SDP funding has also made it possible to reverse the course of type 2 diabetes in AIAN populations, which exceeds 50% in some communities. The program makes diabetes prevention and cardiovascular disease risk reduction intervention studies and treatment programs possible in these populations.  Among the many improvements in clinical outcomes of SDPI-supported programs, reduction of diabetes-related kidney failure stands out for its individual and economic impact in lowering Medicare costs. Between 1999 and 2006, the incidence of diabetes-related ESRD among AIANs declined by 28%, the largest decline in any racial and ethnic group.

Together, the SDP Type 1 and SDPI initiatives are evidence that strategically targeted federal resources can produce enormous gains in the effort to combat diabetes and its complications. Sustainable federal investment in these programs and advocacy support are crucial to reversing the growing diabetes epidemic.  Health care professionals have an important perspective to share and need to add their voices to the cadre of advocates seeking to renew and increase funding for this important program. Click on any of the resources below to learn more about getting involved.