U-M, Duke team up to improve diabetes outcomes

The Center for Geospatial Medicine, which recently moved from Duke University to U-M’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, is a partner in a $6.2 million grant announced today by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation as part of its national diabetes initiative, Together on Diabetes. The project’s other partners are the Duke University Medical Center and the Durham County Health Department. The project will focus on residents of North Carolina’s Durham County, home to Duke.

“The Center for Geospatial Medicine will be developing geospatial informatics tools to improve the design and delivery of treatment approaches for persons with T2DM. We are grateful to the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation for its belief in our work,” said Marie Lynn Miranda, the center’s director and a professor at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment.

Miranda joined SNRE from Duke, where she founded the center and remains an adjunct professor. Miranda becomes dean of SNRE on Jan. 1, 2012.

“Attacking a complex problem like diabetes requires a committed team, resources, community engagement and alignment of health care and societal forces,” said Dr. Robert Califf, vice chancellor for clinical research at Duke and leader of the steering committee for the Durham Diabetes Coalition. “We’re excited by this chance to build on the vibrant relationships that already exist among Duke, the Durham health department and other community stakeholders.

“Together, and with the support of the BMS Foundation, we will provide patients with diabetes and their health care providers with the tools they need to effectively manage their conditions and help them overcome barriers to better health.”

“Changing the course of the nation’s diabetes epidemic requires radically new thinking and intensified collaborative action,” said Patricia Doykos, director of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. “The project is bringing both to everything from how to account for the diverse drivers of diabetes burden to who can play a role to what to do and how to measure whether it is making a positive impact at the population level.”

During the planning phase, the coalition is employing a technology called geospatial mapping, which takes information related to disease and health care and fits it to the physical map of a community, allowing researchers to visualize complex relationships among the locations of diabetes patients, patterns of health care and available social resources.

This information is also being used to explore gaps in access to care and self-management resources; help patients connect with the community assets; and identify interventions that can result in better health outcomes, both for the individual and the neighborhood as a whole. Geospatial data will also be used to create a continuous feedback loop for improving the quality of project efforts.

Diabetes affects nearly 25.8 million Americans, or 8.3 percent of the country’s population.

“One source estimates more than 10 percent of Durham County residents have been diagnosed with diabetes and at least another 2 percent remain undiagnosed,” said Gayle Harris, director of the Durham County Health Department. “Diabetes is a significant risk factor for heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and cancer, which is the leading causes of death in Durham. Only through community interventions like the Durham Diabetes Coalition can we really change the trends in new cases of diabetes and improve the care of persons with diabetes.”

The Durham Diabetes Coalition will employ a Diabetes Intelligence Officer, who is responsible for designing and implementing communication programs to provide relevant health and lifestyle information to the community. The DIO also will develop community messages and support programs to motivate residents to participate in lifestyle initiatives as a group.

“We want this program to integrate health care all the way from the household and neighborhood to specialty clinics in order to provide people with the necessary tools to improve their outcomes,” Califf said. “We hope that Durham and the Diabetes Coalition will serve as a model for similar diabetes management control interventions in communities across the country.”

The mission of the Center for Geospatial Medicine is to develop systematic, spatially based methods for analyzing the pathways through which the environment, genetic and psychosocial domains jointly shape health and well-being.

Center for Geospatial Medicine: http://cehi.snre.umich.edu/projects/cgm

Written by Kevin Merrill, Phone: (734) 417-7392, E-mail: [email protected]