Diabetes continues to be a growing health problem in the United States with an estimated 10% of the population diagnosed with diabetes and approximately 35% of the population estimated to have prediabetes.
Nebraska Medicine and the University of Nebraska Medical Center are launching a diabetes and education program designed to stem the rate of diabetes by improving the management of prediabetes and diabetes, especially in rural Nebraska.
Called Diabetes OnTrack: Transforming Rural Diabetes Care and Education, the program is possible as a result of a $7 million gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation.
“We are very excited to be involved in the development of such a critical program,” says Cyrus Desouza, MBBS, endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism doctor with Nebraska Medicine. Dr. Desouza is a principal researcher for the program along with David Dzewaltowski, PhD. “The prevalence of diabetes tends to run higher in rural communities along with worse outcomes,” says Dr. Desouza. “There are many obstacles to implementing an integrative diabetes management program in rural communities. This program would not be possible without the generous funding and support provided by this gift.”
An initial two-year pilot program will focus on bringing together health care and community organizations to create patient-centered diabetes and education strategies that can be continued into the future through the following approaches:
- Development of an integrated data system that allows health care and community organizations to use local data to enhance decision making
- Formation of a coalition of individuals, organizations and businesses to discuss and shape long-term opportunities for diabetes care, education and prevention in their community
- Collaboration among health care, public health, and other community organizations to enhance how individuals are screened, referred, and engage with a wide variety of community resources
“We will act as a consultation hub to help rural communities enhance and integrate resources that will help them improve diabetes outcomes,” says Dr. Desouza. “Our hope is that this program results in a model that can be used in rural areas across the Midwest and the rest of the country.”
The gift provides $5 million toward supporting the initial phases of the diabetes program and $2 million for the creation of a permanent endowment known as the Dr. Timothy Wahl Presidential Chair in Diabetes Education, Care and Research Fund. The Wahl Presidential Chair will help the UNMC College of Medicine recruit a leader to drive diabetes education and care while advancing innovative approaches to producing better outcomes for those who have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
“The Diabetes Care Foundation is delighted to recognize Dr. Wahl’s lifelong commitment to the advancement in care for those diagnosed with diabetes and his unwavering belief that putting the patient at the center of that care was of the utmost importance,” says Diabetes Care Foundation Board Member Jim Greisch on behalf of its entire board of directors.
The two-year pilot program will focus on Hastings and Wayne, Nebraska, and will concentrate on individuals with prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes. “We hope to secure additional private and public funding that will allow us to expand the program to other communities in the future,” Dr. Desouza says.