Major health initiative targets 3 Indianapolis neighborhoods with high diabetes rates

Residents in three Indianapolis neighborhoods that are plagued with high rates of diabetes could soon have more access to community health care under a new program supported by a partnership of major health institutions, including Eli Lilly and Co.

The initiative, announced Tuesday morning, is designed to connect residents with community health workers to help identify people with diabetes and connect them to health care.

It is being launched by Lilly, Indiana University’s Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, Eskenazi Health, the Marion County Public Health Department and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation Indianapolis.

The program will focus on three Indianapolis neighborhoods with significant health disparities and high rates of diabetes: the Coalition of Northeast Neighborhoods, Northwest Neighborhood and Near Westside Neighborhood.

The three communities were selected based on high prevalence of diabetes, socio-economic factors and highly engaged community members and organizations.

An estimated 10,000 people live with diabetes, and prevalence rates are as high as 17.5 percent in those neighborhoods, the organizations said. Globally, 425 million people have diabetes, with a prevalence rate of 8.4 percent.

Life expectancy in these three communities can be 14 years lower than in neighborhoods just 10 miles away. The lower life expectancy rate is largely due to health disparities and is similar to rates seen in countries such as Iraq and Bangladesh, according to health officials.

The five-year program is expected to cost $7 million. Some of the funds will be used to hire community health care workers to help identify people with diabetes and connect them with quality care, according to the announcement.

In addition, community members will help identify and propose solutions for cultural, social, environmental, economic and policy barriers that increase the risk for diabetes, such as the lack of healthy food options and public spaces for exercise. 

Lilly has used a similar program in Mexico, India and South Africa.

“Despite all our strengths and assets, Indiana ranks 38th among states for overall health status,” said Dave A. Ricks, Lilly chairman and CEO, in written remarks. “Through this effort, we are applying what we’ve learned from our global health work in underserved communities around the world with the expertise of our local partners and the passion of the people living in these neighborhoods. Together we’re going to find new solutions for closing these health disparity gaps.”

The program aims to increase diabetes screenings for people at risk, improve health-care access to people with diabetes and provide better access to healthy food and exercise options.

The pilot uses a Lilly model that studies key research questions, reports what works and uses data to advocate for effective solutions.

The health organizations say the program supports the newly signed Indiana bill that requires the development of a statewide strategic action plan to significantly reduce the prevalence of diabetes.

“I worked hard to pass the new Indiana diabetes legislation because I do not want the next generation of kids to grow up in a food desert with no healthy choices at our markets and too little information about diabetes,” said Indiana State Rep. Vanessa Summers. “This is the type of public-private-community collaboration we need to address complex challenges like diabetes.”

People living in the three Indianapolis communities can sign up to receive information about the diabetes pilot by visiting

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