New outreach vehicle, “The Wellness Bus” will provide diabetes and wellness education, prevention and screenings to communities in Utah
June 4, 2018 – University of Utah Health today launched The Wellness Bus, a unique approach to directly reach underserved communities in the fight against Type 2 diabetes, including those populations particularly at risk for developing the disease.
The mobile outreach vehicle is part of the “Driving Out Diabetes: A Larry H. Miller Family Wellness Initiative,” announced in November and established by a generous gift from The Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation. This bold initiative incorporates a novel three-pronged approach to attack diabetes through prevention and outreach, clinical care, and research and training. The Wellness Bus provides the ability to proactively deliver screening services and health coaching to populations most vulnerable to developing diabetes. The most common form of diabetes, Type 2, can often be prevented if caught early enough.
“We encourage all who see the Wellness Bus to take advantage of this potentially life-saving opportunity,” said Gail Miller, chairman of the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation. “This innovative approach to help prevent diabetes will have a lasting impact on those who are susceptible to this disease and their loved ones, enriching lives for generations.”
Miller describes her late husband Larry as a man with an iron will who found a way to accomplish everything he wanted, but she says, “When you get an illness like diabetes, you cannot will it away.” Larry, noted Utah businessman and philanthropist, died from complications of Type 2 diabetes when he was 64 years old. “Our family knows firsthand the effects of diabetes, and we are committed to help educate and save others from this devastating disease,” said Miller.
More than 30 million Americans or roughly 10% of the total United States population suffer from diabetes. It remains the 7th leading cause of death in the United States in 2015, with 79,535 death certificates listing it as the underlying cause of death, and a total of 252,806 death certificates listing diabetes as an underlying or contributing cause of death. Additionally, 34% of US adults have prediabetes. However, 9 out of 10 of these individuals are unaware of their prediabetes status, and are at greater risk for developing diabetes.
The Wellness Bus is modeled after Harvard Medical School’s mobile health unit –The Family Van – which has served Boston neighborhoods for over 25 years. The Wellness Bus is a diesel-powered, 40-ft custom designed RV that has two private counseling rooms, two screening stations and a waiting/education area. The external design was inspired by community members from Glendale and aims to highlight healthy foods and activities, as well as multicultural inclusiveness. The Wellness Bus will offer chronic disease screening, nutrition education, health and wellness counseling, and medical and social services referrals to Utahns who live in communities with populations that are at a high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.
Since the initiative’s announcement in November, the team at University of Utah Health has gathered input from community members — through conversations with educators, librarians, elected officials, nonprofit organizations, free and reduced cost medical clinics and health departments — to design and execute a program that will complement existing services to promote healthier lifestyles.
“Even in a relatively healthy state like Utah, the diabetes epidemic and the potential epidemic of prediabetes is pretty significant, and no single health system or group can address this,” said U of U Health Chief Wellness Officer Robin Marcus, a member of the leadership team guiding the Driving Out Diabetes Initiative. “I think Gail Miller, her family and we at U of U Health understand that many people will not get the care they need unless we, as a community, come together and decide we’re going to do something.” Marcus added, “We are extremely grateful to the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation, and we applaud Gail Miller’s leadership and vision in helping us bring this concept to life. This novel approach allows us to proactively reach the people who need us most — in a way that is accessible and relevant to their daily lives.”
The initiative has identified four communities where there is significant opportunity to have an impact on diabetes prevention: Kearns, South Salt Lake, Midvale and Glendale. The Wellness Bus staff and volunteers are excited to hit the road on June 8th to help improve the health and wellness of individuals in these communities.
In addition to The Wellness Bus, The Driving Out Diabetes: A Larry H. Miller Family Wellness Initiative, includes the following components:
Education and Prevention
The Center for Community Nutrition in the College of Health is offering new programs toward school-age children and underserved low-income families to teach them the importance of healthy eating and physical activity. Additionally, the Office of Wellness and Integrative Health has expanded the National Diabetes Prevention Program, which has been shown to reduce the incidence of Type 2 diabetes by 58%, to hundreds more people across our state.
The Miller Family gift has allowed the Utah Diabetes and Endocrinology Center to offer new models of clinical care designed to better care for patients already living with diabetes. A program for uncovering diabetes complications is screening patients for diabetic retinopathy as well as atherosclerosis in leg arteries. There is also a new diabetes outpatient clinical care and education program that provides individual attention and small-group learning through a one-day seminar to tune up a patient’s diabetes management.
Research and Training
As part of the Driving Out Diabetes Initiative, investments are being made in transformational research projects with a goal of scientific breakthroughs leading to better treatment and improved lives.
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About the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation
The Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation was established in 2007 to allow the philanthropic spirit set in motion by Larry and Gail Miller to continue for generations to come. The foundation supports religious, charitable, scientific, literary, and educational purposes.
About University of Utah Health
University of Utah Health is the state’s only academic health care system, providing leading-edge and compassionate medicine for a referral area that encompasses 10% of the U.S., including Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and much of Nevada. A hub for health sciences research and education in the region, U of U Health touts a $291 million research enterprise and trains the majority of Utah’s physicians and more than 1,250 health care providers at its Schools of Medicine and Dentistry and Colleges of Nursing, Pharmacy and Health. With more than 20,000 employees, the system includes 12 community clinics and four hospitals — University Hospital; University Neuropsychiatric Institute; Huntsman Cancer Hospital; and the University Orthopaedic Center. For eight straight years, U of U Health has ranked among the top 10 U.S. academic medical centers in the rigorous Vizient Quality and Accountability Study, including reaching No. 1 in 2010 and 2016.