DRIVING OUT DIABETES

By University of Utah Health

The University of Utah announced on Nov. 13, 2017, that The Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation will donate $5.3 million to establish a diabetes prevention program called “Driving Out Diabetes: A Larry H. Miller Family Wellness Initiative.” This bold initiative will incorporate a novel three-pronged approach to attack diabetes through prevention and outreach, clinical care, and research and training. Additionally, the program will proactively deliver screening services to populations who are most vulnerable to developing diabetes. The most common form of diabetes, type 2, can be prevented if caught early enough.

PHOTO CREDIT: University of Utah Health

David W. Pershing, University of Utah president and Gail Miller, chair of the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation.

Gail Miller, chair of the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation, said, “As part of our mission to enrich lives, we are partnering with University of Utah Health on this initiative with the goal of having a lasting impact, especially on some of the most vulnerable in our state.”

Miller described her late husband Larry as a man with an iron will who found a way to accomplish everything he wanted, but said, “when you get an illness like diabetes, you cannot will it away.” Larry H. Miller, noted Utah businessman and philanthropist, died from complications of type 2 diabetes when he was 64 years old. “Our family knows firsthand the effects of diabetes and we are committed to help educate and save others from this devastating disease,” said Miller.

More than 30 million Americans or roughly 10 percent of the total United States population suffer from diabetes. It remains the seventh leading cause of death in the United States in 2015, with 79,535 death certificates listing it as the underlying cause of death, and a total of 252,806 death certificates listing diabetes as an underlying or contributing cause of death.

“This exciting new initiative merges Gail Miller’s vision and passion for reaching people before they get diabetes — particularly the underserved — with the nationally-recognized community of diabetes researchers at U of U Health, who are pioneering novel approaches to treating and preventing diabetes,” said Lorris Betz, senior vice president for Health Sciences and CEO of University of Utah Health.

Angie Fagerlin, chair of Population Health Sciences at U of U Health, and director of the Driving Out Diabetes: A Larry H. Miller Family Wellness Initiative said, “We are incredibly grateful for this opportunity to play a crucial role in the efforts to eradicate the disease in Utah and serve as a model for the nation and the world.” She continued, “We deeply appreciate the strong support from The Larry H. Miller Family Foundation and of course Gail Miller.”

Specifics of the Driving Out Diabetes: A Larry H. Miller Family Wellness Initiative include the following:

Education and prevention

This spring, University of Utah Health will be unveiling a unique approach to directly reach underserved communities, including those populations particularly at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. This program will be staffed by a diverse and culturally competent group of health workers, health coaches, registered dietitians and student volunteers, as well as other health professionals. The education team will address diabetes and other concerns tied to the condition, including obesity, blood pressure, cholesterol and dental health. Additionally, as part of this program, the Center for Community Nutrition in the College of Health will offer new programs toward school-age children and underserved low income families to teach them the importance of healthy eating and physical activity. This program will also expand the National Diabetes Prevention Program, which has been shown to reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent, to hundreds more people across our state.

Clinical care

The Miller family gift will deliver new models of clinical care programs designed to offer better care for patients already living with diabetes. A program for uncovering diabetes complications will screen patients for diabetic retinopathy as well as atherosclerosis in leg arteries. There will be a new diabetes outpatient clinical care and education program that provides individual attention and small-group learning through a one-day seminar to tune up a patient’s diabetes management.

Research and training

The initiative will allow investment in transformational research projects with a goal of scientific breakthroughs leading to better treatment and improved lives.