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Heritage College awarded $600,000 for diabetes management program in Southeast Ohio

(ATHENS, Ohio – May 27, 2015) The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded $600,000 to the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine to develop a collaborative program designed to improve health outcomes and lower health care costs for Type 2 diabetes patients in Southeast Ohio. The Rural Health Care Services Outreach Program has three components: legal assistance, patient navigation and a consumer research advisory group. The program’s coordinated team approach toward health care is intended to tackle the unique barriers that make it difficult for people who live in rural areas to manage diabetes.

“To mitigate risk and improve health in rural communities, creative strategies are needed that complement standard medical care,” said Jane Hamel-Lambert, Ph.D., M.B.A., principal investigator on the grant and an associate professor in the Heritage College Department of Family Medicine. “The rate of diabetes here is 30 to 40 percent higher than the national average. Our goal is to expand the types of professionals able to help people living with Type 2 diabetes and to improve care by bringing medical providers, nurse navigators, legal assistance and consumers together in a way that improves access to community-based resources and gives existing interventions the best chance at success.”

Funding from the three-year HRSA grant will support the expansion of two programs: the Medical Legal Partnership Program (MLP) and the Diabetes Patient Navigator Program. The MLP will be led by Southeast Ohio Legal Services (SEOLS), which provides legal help without attorney fees to people with low income and limited savings. The MLP will help clients better understand their legal rights to health care benefits; assist them with work, housing and financial issues; and ensure they have recourse when they have been wrongfully denied services and benefits.

“Our goal is to collaborate with health care providers serving diabetics in the region and to help patients with health-harming legal problems. We often can help patients better access available public assistance,” said SEOLS Managing Attorney Anne Rubin. “We can also help patients enforce their rights to housing that meets health and safety standards and formulate reasonable accommodation requests to employers, landlords, and other agencies.”

The Diabetes Patient Navigator, led by the Patient Navigator Program at the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, will offer nurse navigation support to patients struggling to manage their diabetes. The navigator will work closely with individuals to identify factors that may affect their ability to manage diabetes, such as limited literacy, mental health issues or unsafe living situations. The comprehensive program will work closely with University Medical Associates Diabetes Endocrine Center, OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital Athens Medical Associates and other area providers to improve patient health.

The HRSA grant will also fund the creation of a consumer group to help inform and guide diabetes research.

“To have a measurable impact on this population, we felt it was important to include the voices of those living with diabetes to help us identify topics for research and address barriers to care, as well as design future interventions that offer the most value,” said Hamel-Lambert.

“Diabetes patients living in Appalachia are more likely to have a delayed diagnosis, less access to health care and lower health literacy, so this is a critical health concern in our region. This program could reduce the likelihood that those living with Type 2 diabetes will develop medical complications and ease the economic burden associated with the disease,” said Heritage College Executive Dean Kenneth H. Johnson, D.O.

The Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine is a leader in training dedicated primary care physicians who are prepared to address the most pervasive medical needs in the state and the nation. Approximately 50 percent of Heritage College alumni practice in primary care and nearly 60 percent practice in Ohio. CARE LEADS HERE.

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under D04RH28409-01-00 for Rural Health Care Services Outreach Grant Program for $600,000. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

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Last updated: 01/28/2016