How Merck's Money Is Bankrolling a Big Effort to Better Manage Diabetes

The Merck Company Foundation has been heavily invested in diabetes for years. With the company’s support, the national Alliance to Reduce Disparities in Diabetes has been conducting research into how type 2 diabetes rates can be managed in vulnerable populations.

Merck tends to give big grants in limited geographic areas, and recently, some of the program’s findings were published in Health Promotion Practice. The takeaway: A new model for chronic disease care may be here to stay.

Related: Merck Company Foundation: Grants for Disease

It all comes down to three types of changes that can have huge impacts on a person’s ability to manage their care.

The first one is data sharing. We need major players in patients’ lives to talk to each other, cross-referencing health data and forming a comprehensive, holistic treatment plan.

The second change involves linking up clinic services with the assets a community may already have in place to help. This enables folks to manage their condition locally.

The third change is getting community health workers to become part of the clinical care team for diabetes patients. Essentially, it all boils down to communication and collaboration.

Education: the numbers show that participants in a coordinated care education program improved their diets, blood sugar testing, and physical activity levels.

The Alliance to Reduce Disparities in Diabetes program office is headquartered at the University of Michigan’s Center for Managing Chronic Disease, and it focuses on Camden, New Jersey; Chicago, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; and Wind River Reservation, Wyoming.

Merck's goals? See here:

  • Applying collaborative approaches to address and reduce health care disparities of vulnerable populations suffering from Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Improving diabetes patient care for traditionally underserved populations.
  • Research regarding comprehensive diabetes prevention and management programs.
  • Public policy advocacy that encourages policymakers to decrease healthcare disparities in diabetes treatment and management. 

The Alliance has got $15 million of Merck’s money behind it. It started in 2011 as a five-year care initiative, and so, with presumably one more year to go, it’s encouraging that it's identified some actionable items it can use to draft comprehensive diabetes management policy suggestions.