Behind the Initiative: Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation Gets Together on Diabetes

In 2010, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation created the Together on Diabetes initiative, a program focused on improving the health of type 2 diabetes patients across the United States. (See Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation: Grants for Disease.)

In its first two years, Together on Diabetes has disbursed nearly half of its funds, so there are still plenty of grants to go around. Of the 21 grants given out so far, most have surpassed $200,000 and several have topped $2 million.

Bristol-Myers has handed out a number of grants focused on small communities, recognizing the importance of place in fighting diseases such as diabetes. The United Hospital Fund in New York City received a three-year, $2.8 million grant to establish a "community-based care" program in five senior centers in Washington Heights. The program, which is associated with the NYC Departments of Aging and Health & Mental Hygiene, aims to address the startlingly high proportion of diabetic senior citizens in Washington Heights. With 26% of seniors suffering from the disease, the community has the second-highest rate in New York City.

But targeting communities like Washington Heights isn't possible without good data, and Together on Diabetes puts just as much emphasis on statistical research. The foundation gave $6.25 million to the Duke University Medical Center (in partnership with the Durham County Health Department and the University of Michigan) to pioneer a concept called geospatial mapping.

This research method zooms in on individual communities to evaluate how the diabetes burden varies across a region. It enables researchers to pull in geographical data, such as the availability of health care and social resources, when devising techniques for caring for a community's diabetic citizens.

Several of the foundation's smaller gifts focus on minority patients, and most are very much grounded in the community. The University of Virginia created a pilot project that uses text messages to encourage good habits among diabetics. The program, Call to Health, received a two-year, $300,000 grant that focuses on African American women with type 2 diabetes.

Bristol-Myers also gave nearly $300,000 to the Sixteenth Street Community Health Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Read BMS Foundation Director Patricia Mae Doykos' IP profile.) The center's program helps Hispanic diabetics who haven't been to the doctor in a while by using a diabetes registry to get them back in for care.

The Riverview Medical Foundation in Neptune, New Jersey, received $50,856 to create a new treatment program for diabetic patients that emphasized self-care.