My Back and Forth Banter with D-Sen. Tom Harkin, for the State of Iowa, Re: Type 1 Diabetes and Native American Programs

So today I got contacted (generically, I am sure), by Senator Tom Harkin (the senator for my state, Iowa). The letter in question was regarding continuous funding for research for Type 1 Diabetes within the national health programs and initiatives for Native Americans (or Indians, as the programs state.) This is the long letter I received. Can you catch the glaring error? (Italics by me)

Dear Friend:

Thank you for contacting me. I am always glad to hear from you.

I appreciate having the benefit of your views and concerns regarding a bill that would reauthorize essential type 1 diabetes research programs at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (the Program) at the Indian Health Service (IHS). This bill, S. 3058, is currently pending before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), of which I am Chairman. Your input on this matter is helpful to me. Please be assured that as I continue to examine this issue, I will certainly give your views every consideration.

I understand the importance of reauthorizing these programs, which attempt to combat an increasingly prevalent, yet often preventable, disease. The statistics are stark. Almost 34 million children and adults in the nation live with diabetes and an additional 50 million are at risk of developing this disease. One in three Americans born in 2000 is at risk of developing diabetes during his or her lifetime. Once largely confined to adults, type 2 diabetes is now increasingly common among children. This alarming trend is especially evident in American Indian and Alaskan Native youth. Indeed, American Indians and Alaska Natives are disproportionately vulnerable to diabetes, with one of the highest diabetes rates in the world and double the rate of the general United States population.

Now in its twelfth year, the Special Diabetes Program for Indians provides grants to implement proven prevention and treatment strategies to help improve health outcomes among these vulnerable populations. The Program was first authorized by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, a law which I supported in the Senate. At that time, the law authorized the program with a yearly budget of $30 million. In 2001, I voted in favor of a bill that increased funding to $100 million a year, and in 2002 once again supported legislation that increased the Program budget to $150 million, where it stands today. S. 3058 would reauthorize the Special Diabetes Program for Indians and NIH type 1 diabetes research programs for FY2012-2016 and boost the annual funding level to $200 million during this period.

As you may know, strengthening initiatives to prevent and manage chronic diseases like diabetes has been a long-standing priority of mine. The need to invest in prevention is clear. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite chronic illnesses accounting for 75 percent of the nation's health care spending, prevention spending accounts for just 4 percent. Yet every dollar we spend on prevention often saves us money over the long term. For instance, for every dollar we spend on prevention of chronic disease, including diabetes, we save $5.60. Simply put, it costs far less to catch a preventable disease early than to treat it later at an advanced stage.

You may be interested to know that the recent health care reform laws, collectively known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), contain important provisions to strengthen preventive care. The ACA requires insurance plans to cover preventive care services free of charge, with no cost-sharing, co-pay, or co-insurance. Covered services include a wide range of preventive services, including screenings for many kinds of cancers, blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol tests, as well as well-baby and well-child visits from birth to age 21. The ACA also provides new investments in community prevention programming to support local initiatives that improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables and increase opportunities for physical activity for the those communities at greatest risk of chronic diseases, such as American Indians and Native Alaskans.

In addition, the ACA ensures that children continue to receive free preventive care as they grow up, including routine physical exams, vision and hearing screening, and health risk assessments, and screenings for hemoglobin level, tuberculin, lead, and other environmental health screenings. In addition, the free preventive care services cover counseling to detect, prevent, and treat childhood obesity, childhood depression, and dental cavities, as well as a range of annual flu vaccinations.

Know that I will continue to fight for funding to prevent, diagnose, treat, and cure diabetes. Again, thank you for contacting me. Please do not hesitate to contact me again about any issue that concerns you.


Tom Harkin

United States Senator


Today, this was my reply. I hope he gets it, and actually gets the connection.

Dear Senator Harkin,

Recently I received a reply letter from you, regarding a bill that would reauthorize essential type 1 diabetes research programs at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (the Program) at the Indian Health Service (IHS). This bill, S. 3058, is currently pending before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), of which you are Chairman.

I just have one concern to bring to you with this letter. Your first paragraph addresses the importance of funding research for Type 1 Diabetes, and it leads into a second paragraph that discusses how this is a preventable disease. Type 1 Diabetes is NOT a preventable disease in any way, shape, or form. Type 1 Diabetes may strike ANYONE, in any shape, or health, from children to the elderly. It matters not if one has good or bad eating habits. Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune attack on the Pancreas which ends up killing the Pancreas' beta cells, which produce insulin. At this time, there is NO known trigger or cause for this autoimmune attack, and the same markers which may trigger Type 2 Diabetes in SOME individuals (and not all), do NOT trigger Type 1 Diabetes in any individuals. Children, every day, are getting bullied in school because of people who wrongly think that they caused their own disease, which they did not. How many bad eating habits does a newborn of just 1 week have time to develop before getting Type 1 Diabetes? NONE. Diet and exercise may benefit ALL diabetics, but they will never prevent Type 1 Diabetes.

I am just thankful that you are fighting hard, and are on our sides... but please, try to keep these distinctions and sensitivities in mind.


Lizmari M. Collazo

Lizmari, you GO girl!

(Is Harkin up for re-election?)

He sure is, Muragaki… He sure is. :slight_smile:

Got a personal phone call from his office today, profusely apologizing… :slight_smile:

Thanks DWQ( formerly known as Lizmari), for your activism and contiued perserverance while promoting precise and truthful information about diabetes.

God Bless,

Great job DWQ - I admire your persistence and your amazing ability to get your point across. Keep up the good work! : D