Research

UNC School of Medicine professor receives $3M grant to advance health equity in diabetes care

The study will address health-related social needs to improve health outcomes for people with Type 2 diabetes experiencing food insecurity, housing instability or transportation barriers.

The study found that unmet social needs are one of the main reasons that individuals who are systematically marginalized based on race, ethnicity and income are at higher risk for complications.
The study found that unmet social needs are one of the main reasons that individuals who are systematically marginalized based on race, ethnicity and income are at higher risk for complications. (adobe stock image)

A research team led by Dr. Seth A. Berkowitz, has received a five-year, nearly $3 million R01 award from the U.S. National Institutes of Health to better understand how addressing health-related social needs improves health outcomes for people with Type 2 diabetes. The team includes investigators in the department of biostatistics and at OCHIN, a nonprofit organization that provides information technology support to community health centers.

According to Berkowitz, health-related social needs, including food insecurity, housing instability and transportation barriers, affect more than 6 million people with Type 2 diabetes. Individuals with Type 2 diabetes who have unmet social needs are more likely to have more blood sugar highs and lows, high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol. As a result, they are at higher risk for complications of diabetes, including kidney disease and heart disease.

Since unmet social needs are one of the main reasons that individuals who are systematically marginalized based on race, ethnicity and income are at higher risk for complications, the findings of this research may have important implications for advancing health equity.

“When you have Type 2 diabetes, there is a lot you are asked to do — take medications, change your diet, increase exercise. Adding food insecurity and other barriers just makes it that much harder to stay healthy,” said Berkowitz.

Read more about the study.