UT diabetes project receives $3 million from health foundation to expand in Rio Grande Valley

AUSTIN—The University of Texas System’s Project Diabetes and Obesity Control (DOC) recently received $3 million from the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation to expand its innovative diabetes management programs in the lower Rio Grande Valley.

Project DOC: Diabetes Obesity Control
Project DOC
Project DOC: Diabetes Obesity Control
was developed to show that chronic disease care could be organized around the patient, making it accessible anytime and anywhere. Using smartphones, tablets, wearables and advanced information systems, Project DOC allows patients with diabetes to monitor their health in real time rather than in episodic visits to doctor’s offices and other health facilities.

The project leverages cutting edge tools that combine medicine and information technology to change chronic disease outcomes. It’s engaging all stakeholders — public and private — to develop holistic solutions to improve chronic disease management and motivate healthier behavior.  By targeting the underserved communities in South Texas — where 28 percent of the adult population has diabetes and another 32 percent has pre-diabetes — the project intends to demonstrate that its approach can improve the lives of the vulnerable populations who have limited access to traditional health care and are at high risk for diabetes.

“Our current acute disease oriented health care system isn’t set up for prevention or management of chronic diseases such as diabetes,” said Lynda Chin, M.D., UT System’s associate vice chancellor and chief innovation officer for health affairs. “Changing this requires a complete redesign of how we deliver care as well as how we leverage modern technologies and new thinking to enable it. This will take engaging diverse stakeholders and partners. Support from the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation is timely and critical for the project’s success.”

During its initial implementation in Brownsville — a community in the Rio Grande Valley that already has established a broad network of partners involving the city, community groups and UT institutions to implement a range of programs targeting diabetes and obesity — Project DOC was able to build on this network to develop collaborations with health care providers including Su Clinica Familiar, a federally qualified health center; community stakeholders including UT Health School of Public Health, Brownsville Wellness Coalition, South Texas Academy for Medical Professionals and Valley Baptist School of Vocational Nursing; and Walmart. Together, they are bringing free health screenings and healthy lifestyle education conveniently to the community in seventeen Walmart stores, as well as providing daily monitoring by patients at home so they can better control their diabetes.

Whether patients are at home or in doctors’ offices, it is important that medical providers have access to patients’ up-to-date health information. To do this, Project DOC has been collaborating with AT&T, IBM and PwC to develop a digital health infrastructure to support secure and private sharing of health data and analytic insights for health care providers and patients. It connects multiple forms of health-related data such as electronic medical records, pharmacy records, remote monitoring of patient data from retail stores or at homes, and patient-generated health data from wearable devices and mobile apps. It analyzes a patient’s complex medical information and organizes it in an easy-to-understand format, so that doctors can make more informed decisions, better coordinate care and spend more time with patients.

“Due to these robust partnerships and focus on the Rio Grande Valley, Project DOC provided a perfect match for a Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation Grant,” said Judy Quisenberry, grants director. “The Foundation invests in and serves as a catalyst for ideas, partnerships, medical education, research and programs that improve the health and quality of life in the Rio Grande Valley.”

The Legacy Foundation supports programs that promote healthy lifestyles and increase access to health care in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr or Willacy counties.

“The costs that diabetes and obesity impose on our society are unacceptable – and nowhere is the problem more evident than in the Rio Grande Valley,” UT System Chancellor William H. McRaven said during a visit to the Valley earlier this month. “The good news is that we have a very talented, determined and innovative team working on tackling the problem head on.”

If successful, Project DOC has the potential to save the state hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years in chronic disease costs and improve the health of thousands of people.

About The University of Texas System

Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking basic, applied and clinical research, and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States. With 14 institutions and an enrollment of more than 221,000, the UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates almost two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public institutions in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $17.9 billion (FY 2017) including $3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With more than 20,000 faculty – including Nobel laureates – and nearly 80,000 health care professionals, researchers, student advisors and support staff, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

News Contact Information

Jenny LaCoste-Caputo: jcaputo@utsystem.edu  • 512-499-4361(direct) • 512-574-5777 (cell) 
Karen Adler: kadler@utsystem.edu  • 512-499-4360 (direct) • 210-912-8055 (cell)