A Little Can Go a Long Way on the Front Lines in the Diabetes Fight

Diabetes is one of the world's biggest and fastest-growing health threats. But within the statistics for any disease is often a subset of statistics, which the medical community calls "disparate health outcomes." This refers to the unequal opportunity of people in a particular ethnic or socio-economic group to have higher rates of disease, worse long-term outcomes, and/or less access to health care than the national average.

This is the situation with diabetes and the nation's large Latino population, for which diabetes is an especially urgent concern. Latinos are almost twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to develop type 2 diabetes and also more likely to develop end-stage renal disease, among other serious complications, and are 40 percent more likely to die from the disease. With a disproportionate 50 million Latinos in the U.S. who face these long-term complications and related medical needs, the human and financial toll is staggering.

We've written a lot about philanthropy's fight against diabetes, and fortunately, there are some major funders in this space, most notably the Leona Helmsley Charitable Trust. But while some of the biggest diabetes grants understandably fund the quest for research breakthroughs, more funding is also needed for work on the front lines of this health crisis. 

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Cigna Foundation, the global health insurer's philanthropic arm, is one funder addressing the diabetes-related needs of the Latino population at the grass-roots level. They recently announced a $15,000 grant to Clínica Tepeyac, a safety-net clinic that provides medical services to underserved patients in the Denver metropolitan area.

Since type 2 diabetes is partly related to exercise, diet, weight and other lifestyle questions, better methods for patient outreach, education and care are crucial to improving disease rates and outcomes. But uninsured and undocumented Latinos with diabetes often delay treatment, says Cigna, so their symptoms and prognosis are worse than the average.

The funding will expand the clinic's diabetes prevention and management programs for uninsured and under-insured Hispanics. The grant will also give Clínica Tepeyac members access to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Diabetes Prevention Program.

We've written before about other grantmaking to fight diabetes at the community level, where health care providers can connect directly to patients. Among other initiatives, funders are backing mHealth (mobile health) programs that use smartphones and text messaging to promote healthy diet and exercise habits among pre-diabetics and diabetics in vulnerable populations.

The Clínica Tepeyac grant is not Cigna's first nod at Latino health concerns. Last year, Cigna's Hispanic Colleague Resource Group (CRG), which tackles health care challenges among Hispanics using insights from Cigna employees, produced a white paper discussing disparate health outcomes in the Hispanic community.

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