Diabetes Day: Israel launches $ 75 million. effort to prevent, treat, cure

With more than one million Israelis expected to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by 2040, health experts have identified a great need for innovative models to prevent, treat and cure this chronic disease.

The Azrieli College of Medicine at Bar-Ilan University and the Russell Berrie Foundation have announced a new comprehensive 10-year $ 75 million program to help transform diabetes care in the Northern Galilee region, with the goal of Simultaneously driving innovations in diabetes treatment and prevention that can be applied around the world.

The announcement was made around World Diabetes Day, which is Sunday, November 14.

The program is called SPHERE, an acronym for “Social Precision Medicine Health Equity Research Effort.” It focuses on collaboration between health funds, hospitals, researchers, municipalities, social services and industry professionals, religious community leaders, women’s organizations and non-profit organizations in the region, who will work together to develop best practices for diabetes prevention and caring for people. with the disease.

“The need for innovative models and approaches is expected to be greater than ever in COVID-19 and the post-pandemic era due to its amplified effect on health inequities from chronic diseases,” said Professor Karl Skorecki, Dean. from the Azrieli School of Medicine, who started ESFERA. “Having thoroughly examined the diabetes landscape in the Galilee, we believe that this coordinated effort will lead to substantial impact and constant and sustainable improvement in the region, as well as serve as an example for other initiatives related to chronic diseases in communities. geographical and social peripherals.

Dr. Sivan Spitzer (credit: BAR-ILAN UNIVERSITY)

Diabetes is on the rise in Israel and around the world. The number of diabetics has quadrupled since 1980, according to Bar-Ilan. In Israel, according to Dr. Sivan Spitzer, who will serve as deputy director of SPHERE, some 600,000 people are already considered prediabetic, with a conversion rate of about 6.5% per year from prediabetic to diabetic.

A significant percentage of diabetics with the most severe symptoms tend to be from socioeconomically disadvantaged populations.

In Israel, of the 1 million Israelis expected to suffer from the disease in less than 20 years, a disproportionate number will be from areas such as the Galilee, which is home to Muslim Arabs, Christian Arabs, Jews, Druze, Bedouins, Circassians and Maronites – many of whom are poorer suffer from low health literacy.

Part of the program’s goals is to see a 50% reduction in the conversion rate from prediabetes to diabetes and a dramatic increase in the number of diabetes patients whose glucose levels are well controlled.

The idea is to make a difference “by bringing all the different partners around the table,” Spitzer said. “The real innovation is eliminating silos and creating real synergy for health.”

The program has four pillars: prevention, control, care and search for a cure.

Prevention will include, for example, creating community infrastructure to promote healthy lifestyles. Spitzer said this could include leveraging an urban planner already on the team to work with municipalities on establishing outdoor gyms or walking trails to ensure residents have places to exercise.

Control would mean “getting married [of] precision medicine with social determinants of health to improve clinical management and mitigate complications, ”explains a statement. The care aspect is the integration of health providers and community workers and systems for the benefit of patients and potential patients.

Cure will spearhead “new trials and cutting edge science” through medical school, Spitzer said. The statement added that SPHERE researchers will work to identify genetic mutations that cause diabetes in specific populations to help enable precision medical care, as well as the development of new diagnostic and prevention tools.

“This is the largest project of its kind in our nation’s history,” said endocrinologist Prof. Naim Shehadeh, who will serve as director of SPHERE. “I believe it will serve as a springboard for upcoming comprehensive national and global programs, using cutting-edge scientific models to improve health services for disadvantaged communities.”

To start SPHERE, the Russell Berrie Foundation has provided Bar-Ilan with a lead grant of $ 20 million.

“We see this investment as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve the quality of life in the Galilee region and substantially reduce health care disparities, while making a significant contribution to the global field of treatment and prevention. of diabetes, “said the foundation. CEO Ruth Salzman.

The program is being launched in five communities: Nazareth, Nof HaGalil, Safed, Sakhnin and Shfar’am, Spitzer explained. Over the next three to four years, the team will focus its efforts on developing and evaluating the core components of the SPHERE model. After that, it is expected to expand throughout the region until 2031.

“When you look at the international level, the big diabetes research centers are focused on biomedical research,” said Spitzer, an expert in identifying, designing and evaluating organizational strategies aimed at reducing inequities in healthcare. “There are only a few that focus on health disparities and diabetes, and certainly not on this magnitude. If we can decipher the DNA, understand the model, it will be important internationally. “

The Azrieli Faculty of Medicine was established in Galilee 10 years ago to be an agent of change, he continued. In the early years, the school focused on building its faculty, facilities, and research. But in the last two to three years, he has begun to look at how the college could “make a substantial difference in changing health outcomes and addressing health disparities” in the region.

“It was clear to us that if we could come up with a new model to prevent, control and treat diabetes, we could make a substantial difference for Galilee, Israel and the world,” he said.


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