Newswise — The University of Chicago has been selected by the Merck Foundation to play a national leadership role in a $16 million, five-year initiative to improve access to high-quality diabetes care among the most vulnerable and underserved communities throughout the country.

As the National Program Office (NPO) for the Bridging the Gap: Reducing Disparities in Diabetes Care initiative, the university will support the program grantees’ efforts and provide national leadership in building public-private partnerships to help reduce disparities in diabetes care.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for the NPO to be housed at the University of Chicago,” said Monica Peek, MD, associate professor of medicine and associate director of Chicago Center for Diabetes Translation Research. Peek and colleague Marshall Chin, MD, Richard Parrillo Family Professor of Healthcare Ethics and director of Chicago Center for Diabetes Translation Research, will co-direct the new office. Both are national leaders in addressing health disparities and transforming the way services are delivered within minority communities.


“We will work with grantees to help develop, evaluate and disseminate innovative programs that address the complex medical and social drivers of diabetes disparities in our country,” Chin said. “An important job of the NPO will be to create a national dialogue about cross-sector solutions to reduce diabetes disparities.”

An estimated 30 million Americans — about 9 percent of the population — are living with diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vulnerable populations are those who are at higher risk of disease burden and death, including racial and ethnic minorities, those with low health literacy, and people with limited access to health care.

Through the Bridging the Gap initiative, the Merck Foundation aims to build sustainable partnerships between the health care sector and other sectors, such as food, housing and education, to address both the medical and social determinants of health. It also plans to support the transformation of primary care to improve delivery of diabetes care for underserved populations.

Peek said the Merck Foundation will look to the University of Chicago to support program grantees by providing technical assistance, developing a learning collaboration among the sites, and creating opportunities to share their work regionally and nationally.

The eight program grantee organizations include:

The Merck Foundation will assess the impact of Bridging the Gap and its programs through a comprehensive cross-site evaluation led by NPO researchers. Lessons learned from the initiative will be shared nationally in order to impact local communities throughout the United States, including those in Chicago, Peek said.

The Merck Foundation has been a major supporter of UChicago Medicine’s South Side Diabetes Project, which is led by Peek and Chin. This project advances diabetes care and outcomes through a multi-pronged approach, which includes patient education and empowerment, provider workshops, quality improvement programs in clinics, and community collaborations.


About the University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences

The University of Chicago Medicine, with a history dating back to 1927, is one of the nation’s leading academic medical institutions. It comprises the University of Chicago Medical Center, Pritzker School of Medicine and the Biological Sciences Division. Its main Hyde Park campus is home to the Center for Care and Discovery, Bernard Mitchell Hospital, Comer Children’s Hospital and the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine. It also has ambulatory facilities in Orland Park and the South Loop as well as affiliations and partnerships that create a regional network of care. UChicago Medicine offers a full range of specialty-care services for adults and children through more than 40 institutes and centers including an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. It has 811 licensed beds, nearly 850 attending physicians, about 2,500 nurses and over 1,100 residents and fellows. Harvey-based Ingalls Health joined UChicago Medicine’s network in 2016.


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