By Jim Killackey Modified: October 2, 2007 at 2:41 pm •  Published: October 2, 2007
The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center received a $6.6 million grant Monday to boost the fight against diabetes, which researchers say has reached epidemic proportions among the state's American Indian population.

Best estimates have Oklahoma with more than 60,000 American Indians who have diabetes.

To address this crisis, the National Institutes of Health awarded the grant to OU researcher J. Neil Henderson to establish the Oklahoma Center for American Indian Diabetes Health Disparities.

OU health practitioners will focus primarily on the impact of diabetes on maternal health, infant mortality and obesity.

Much of the work will be done with members of the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes.

OU medical researchers will work with health care professionals at Indian health centers in Ada, Talihina and Oklahoma City.

"Diabetes is a complex, escalating disease with biological and social roots. The need to reduce and prevent diabetes in American Indians is urgent.” said Henderson, who is an American Indian.

The center
•The new Oklahoma Center for American Indian Diabetes Health Disparities is located at the University of Oklahoma College of Public Health and will complement work being done at the Harold Hamm Oklahoma Diabetes Center, which is also on the campus of the OU Health Sciences Center.

•The five-year grant will fund research in several areas, including diabetes management, insulin resistance, diabetic foot health, exercise and education. It also will be used to increase the number of schoolchildren who attend the Native Youth Preventing Diabetes summer camp, OU officials said.