Meyer Memorial Trust Grant Aids OHSU's Outreach in Diabetes Education

09/25/08  Portland, Ore.

The $500,000 grant from Meyer Memorial Trust will support an initiative by OHSU’s Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center

Meyer Memorial Trust has joined forces with Oregon Health & Science University to improve the quality of diabetes care in rural Oregon.

A $500,000 grant from Meyer Memorial Trust will support an initiative by OHSU’s Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center (HSDHC) to share its expertise in diabetes care and education with healthcare providers, patients and the general public in rural communities across Oregon.

“One of the primary reasons OHSU established the Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center was to provide a catalyst for statewide collaborations that will bring better diabetes care to all Oregonians,” said HSDHC Director Andrew Ahmann, M.D. “This generous grant allows us to take the first major steps in exploring the best methods to accomplish this ambitious and important goal. We will review previous efforts to improve diabetes care, identifying predictors of success and failure in the rural environment. We will then partner with two rural communities to identify areas where HSDHC can enhance diabetes care and knowledge, working in concert with existing community resources.”

Ahmann said the grant is a timely response to the nation’s mounting diabetes epidemic and its disproportionate impact on rural areas. Public health experts attribute higher rural diabetes rates to factors such as poverty, race/ethnicity, obesity, and diet/lifestyle issues. Oregon is no exception, with diabetes affecting more than 9 percent of the population in some rural communities. These communities rarely have available endocrinologists and other diabetes specialists. Declining in number, Oregon’s rural practitioners are greatly impacted by this rapidly growing problem that threatens to overwhelm their limited practice resources. Inadequate access to care and inadequate support services such as patient education and specialty consultation limit the opportunity for reducing complications and improving the quality of life for affected individuals.

“We deeply appreciate the opportunity this grant affords to make a major statewide impact,” Ahmann said. “These funds will make a measurable difference in how rural physicians interact with their diabetes patients, how patients manage their own conditions and how communities come together to reduce the incidence of preventable diabetes.”

The three-year grant will fund the efforts of an outreach program coordinator and other medical and administrative staff at the HSDHC to improve professional communication tools and shared patient education materials as well as to develop a presence in partner communities. Expertise gained from ongoing OHSU rural outreach – including the Oregon Rural Practice-based Research Network, the OHSU Office of Rural Health and OHSU’s Area Health Education Centers program – will guide the new HSDHC outreach team in forming this HSDHC rural diabetes initiative.

The alliances will involve local hospitals, county health departments, large employers, schools, primary care physicians and health support organizations. Their mandate is to evaluate their community’s specific diabetes care situation and identify opportunities to make sustainable improvements. Provider training, community awareness and prevention programs, patient education and direct intervention for at-risk populations are among the potential elements of these community plans. The HSDHC will also provide enhanced expert consultation in the local setting through new techniques such as telemedicine and improved website tools.

In Phase 1 of the initiative, the center will form alliances and develop pilot community plans in at least two affected rural areas – a number that HSDHC leadership hopes to expand to seven as additional funding sources are identified. In Phase 2, lessons learned from the first phase will provide the foundation for a model program that can be widely replicated throughout the region.

“Especially in rural areas, our healthcare system is not prepared to cope with the increasing number of people confronted with diabetes and struggling to keep it under control,” said Harold Schnitzer. “We were inspired to launch the Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center because we believe it’s time for a whole new approach to this disease. With the help of partners such as Meyer Memorial Trust, the center will lead the way to new solutions for people with diabetes, no matter where they live.”

Established in 2007 to promote improved diabetes care for children and adults in Oregon and beyond, the Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center was made possible by a $5.5 million leadership gift from the Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation. The Meyer Memorial Trust grant advances the OHSU Foundation’s ongoing effort to raise an additional $7 million to complement $3 million that has already been committed by DCHF in support of the Center’s operations.

The OHSU Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that exists to secure private philanthropic support for Oregon Health & Science University. The foundation raises funds from individuals, companies, foundations and organizations, and invests and manages gifts in accordance with donors’ wishes.