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WMHS Receives Grant to Improve Access to Diabetes Care
Western Maryland Health System is one of eight program grantees supported through the new $16 million, five-year Merck Foundation initiative, Bridging the Gap: Reducing Disparities in Diabetes Care, to help mobilize community-based partners and improve diabetes care for vulnerable and underserved populations in the United States. See map at the bottom of the page for more details.

"We are honored to be part of this initiative that will help us expand our services to people in our community who have Type 2 diabetes, says Barry Ronan, President and CEO at WMHS. "Over the past three years, we have made a significant improvement in the lives of those people with diabetes who have availed themselves of our Center for Clinical Resources and other diabetes care management services.  This $1.47 million grant from the Merck Foundation will help us mobilize these clinical resources and take them out to patients where they live, increasing their access to care and breaking down any barriers to improving their health.

Based on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes prevalence for Allegany County ranges between 12.8% and 14.6%, indicating that 7400 individuals are impacted by diabetes.  

High rates of diabetes and its related complications, such as heart disease and stroke, are due in large part to barriers that these populations often face in effectively managing their diabetes, such as geographic and economic disparities. 

Promoting health equity among people with diabetes requires a comprehensive approach that brings together high-quality health services with resources drawn from outside of the health system. Collaboration across multiple sectors can address the many factors that influence health, such as access to healthy foods, and safe options for physical activity, housing, and education. 

"This grant enables us to take our diabetes management services out to local communities as well as to individuals in their homes, explains Jo Wilson, Vice President of Population Health at WMHS. "WMHS currently has outreach community clinics in areas where there is a high concentration of need and limited primary care access. This grant will fund additional services at these clinics specific to the needs of those with Type 2 diabetes, including care coordination services for those who need help managing their diabetes.  

These clinics also will be a hub to link people with diabetes to community-based services needed to improve their health.  A variety of community organizations are partners in the program and will help address peoples need for healthy food, medications, transportation, housing and other social issues.   
WMHS will also place diabetic management care coordinators in primary care practices. These are registered nurses with special training and experience in dealing with diabetic and chronically ill patients.  Their knowledge base enables them to assess a patients health risk and use that information to direct and improve care. In addition to this one-on-one approach to care, telemedicine links will be available for a virtual presence with other members of the healthcare team when necessary. An in-home telemonitoring program also will be used for Type 2 diabetes patients deemed at high risk. Patients will be trained to use Bluetooth-enabled blood sugar monitors, scales and blood pressure cuffs.  The information from these devices is transmitted to a nurse who interacts with the patient at the first signs of trouble to help to avoid any complications.

"We need to look beyond the usual health care solutions to address the growing burden of diabetes, especially among vulnerable populations in the United States, says Julie L. Gerberding, Chief Patient Officer, Merck and Chief Executive Officer, Merck Foundation. "Through Bridging the Gap, we are pleased to bring together these eight diverse organizations, and look forward to leveraging their expertise to help more people effectively manage their diabetes and improve their overall health. 
WMHS joins selected organizations in communities across the country, as part of Bridging the Gap, working to improve the delivery of diabetes care and address the social and environmental factors that affect health. Additional program grantees include: Alameda County Public Health Department (Oakland, Calif.); Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics (Orofino, Idaho); La Clnica del Pueblo (Washington, D.C.); Marshall University (Huntington, W.Va.); Minneapolis Health Department (Minneapolis, Minn.); Providence St. Joseph Health (Renton, Wash.); and Trenton Health Team (Trenton, N.J). 

The University of Chicago (Chicago, Ill.) will serve as the National Program Office for Bridging the Gap, and in this capacity will support the program efforts of the grantee organizations and provide leadership in building a national public-private partnership to help reduce disparities in diabetes care.
For more information, visit http://www.msdresponsibility.com/access-to-health/key-initiatives/bridging-the-gap.

About WMHS
The Western Maryland Health System (WMHS) in Cumberland provides a comprehensive range of healthcare services along the continuum of care for residents in Allegany and Garrett Counties in Maryland and surrounding counties in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.   WMHS includes the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center, a 275-bed facility that opened in November 2009.  Other components include a nursing home, outpatient diagnostic centers and a network of urgent care clinics, primary care centers and physician practices.    

About the Merck Foundation
The Merck Foundation is a U.S.-based, private charitable foundation. Established in 1957 by Merck, a leading global biopharmaceutical company, the Foundation is funded entirely by the company and is Mercks chief source of funding support to qualified non-profit charitable organizations. Since its inception, the Merck Foundation has contributed more than $870 million to support important initiatives that address societal needs and are consistent with Mercks overall mission of inventing for life by bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the worlds most challenging diseases. For more information, visit www.merckgiving.com.