Project to improve health equity in Indianapolis expands with funding from Lilly

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI has received a five-year, $5 million grant from Eli Lilly and Co. to expand the Diabetes Impact Project. Known as DIP-IN, the project aims to improve health equity in three Indianapolis neighborhoods where residents are predominantly people of color.

Launched in 2018 with an initial five-year, $7 million grant from Lilly, DIP-IN is a partnership among the Fairbanks School of Public Health and Indianapolis communities in the northeast, near northwest and near west focused on Type 2 diabetes prevention and control.

According to a new report by the school and the Polis Center at IUPUI, an up-to-16.8-year gap in life expectancy existed between the longest- and shortest-living ZIP codes in the Indianapolis metro area from 2014 to 2018. Life expectancy in the DIP-IN communities during the same time period was among the lowest in the area.

In the three DIP-IN neighborhoods, 83% of the residents are people of color and an estimated 10,000 people live with diabetes, with prevalence rates of 20%. The average rate of diabetes in Indianapolis is 15%, while globally it is 9%.

“In addition to the high prevalence of diabetes and alarming life expectancy gap, COVID-19 has added an unacceptable burden to Black and Brown communities in Indianapolis,” said Tiffany Benjamin, senior director of social impact for Lilly and president of the Lilly Foundation. “With the launch of Lilly’s Racial Justice Initiative last year, we are even more committed to identifying and eliminating the institutional and societal barriers that keep our neighbors from living long and healthy lives.”

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of this project. In Marion County, from March 1 to Sept. 1, 2020, people with diabetes represented 3.7% of all COVID-19 positive cases yet were 15.8% of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and 16.4% of ICU admissions.

“The pandemic has disproportionately affected people of color, and we do not yet know the scale of how life expectancy will be affected,” said Lisa Staten, principal investigator and associate professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Fairbanks School of Public Health. “This expanded funding from Lilly will allow us to continue working in partnership with the neighborhoods to develop effective and sustainable local solutions for diabetes prevention and control and ultimately improve health equity.”

This grant will expand the existing collaboration with the three Indianapolis communities and build on the work of the resident steering committees to tackle some of the underlying causes of diabetes, including work to improve access to healthy food, reduce stress, and create an infrastructure and culture that support physical activity. Addressing these issues is important to people living with diabetes in the target neighborhoods, as well as other individuals who may be affected by these often systemic and interrelated challenges.

“This project, a vital partnership with our community members to address real-world challenges, also reflects one of our campus’s strategic priorities insofar as it contributes to the wellbeing of the people of Indianapolis,” IUPUI Chancellor Nasser H. Paydar said. “We are working together to apply community-engaged research to improving health outcomes and addressing health disparities in Indiana at a time when our lives have been completely transformed by the pandemic.”

During the first three years of the project, DIP-IN has focused on supporting people who are living with diabetes and those at risk for developing diabetes.

“This expansion of the DIP-IN grant does more than provide additional services to our community,” said Patrice Duckett-Brown, executive director of Fay Biccard Glick Crooked Creek Neighborhood Center and a resident on one of the three local steering committees for DIP-IN. “This grant expansion focuses on prevention from an equity lens. The new grant provides our community with additional support but an abundance of leverage to change how we view our own health and address long-term barriers that narrate health disparities within our community.”

Eskenazi Health is a major partner on the DIP-IN project. Community health workers in their neighborhood clinics assist patients in overcoming challenges that influence their health by providing social support and connecting them with primary care providers, social services, educational support related to healthy eating and diabetes management, and many other resources.

“Diabetes is one of the most serious health challenges our community faces, and everyone at Eskenazi Health appreciates Lilly’s generosity in helping us battle this terrible disease through funding of the Diabetes Impact Project,” said Dr. Dawn Haut, CEO of Eskenazi Health Center, the primary care division of Eskenazi Health. “We’re confident that this ground-breaking initiative will contribute greatly in reducing the number of individuals with diabetes and reduce the health inequity among Black and Brown people in our community.”

In a partnership with the Local Initiatives Support Corp., DIP-IN has also placed community health workers in three neighborhood organizations. These workers link residents to local services and neighborhood activities, raising awareness of diabetes risk factors, encouraging screening and working with steering committees to support healthy living.

The DIP-IN grant expansion began Aug. 1 and extends the project to a total of eight years.

With this expansion, DIP-IN will be able to increase community capacity to continue these efforts after the project ends.

DIP-IN involves partnerships with multiple organizations, including Eskenazi Health, Local Initiatives Support Corp., Marion County Public Health Department, the Polis Center at IUPUI, Alliance for Northeast Unification, Christamore House, Flanner House and the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center.

About IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health

Located on the IUPUI and IU Fort Wayne campuses, the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health is committed to advancing the public’s health and well-being through education, innovation and leadership. The school is known for its expertise in biostatistics, epidemiology, cancer research, community health, environmental public health, global health, health policy and health services administration.

About Eli Lilly and Co.

Lilly is a global health care leader that unites caring with discovery to create medicines that make life better for people around the world. It was founded more than a century ago by a man committed to creating high-quality medicines that meet real needs, and today it remains true to that mission in all of its work. Across the globe, Lilly employees work to discover and bring life-changing medicines to those who need them, improve the understanding and management of disease, and give back to communities through philanthropy and volunteerism.

About Eskenazi Health

For more than 160 years, Eskenazi Health has provided high-quality, cost-effective, patient-centered health care to Central Indiana. Nationally recognized programs include a Level I trauma center, regional burn center, comprehensive senior care program, women’s and children’s services, teen and adolescent care programs, Lifestyle Health & Wellness Center, Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center, and a network of primary care sites located throughout the neighborhoods of Indianapolis known as Eskenazi Health Center. As the public hospital division of the Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County, Eskenazi Health partners with the IU School of Medicine, whose physicians provide a comprehensive range of primary and specialty care services.