The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School will receive $981,862 over four years from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation as part of the foundation’s new Together on Diabetes initiative, officials announced June 8.

The five-year, $115 million initiative is aimed at improving the health outcomes of adults living with type 2 diabetes in the United States, China and India by strengthening patient self-management education, community-based supportive services and broad-based community mobilization.

Said HLS Dean Martha Minow: “Under the leadership of Robert Greenwald, our Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation has rightly earned a vital place in bridging law, policy, and health and this new recognition brings terrific opportunities to participate promising international efforts addressing the serious public health challenges of type 2 diabetes.”

Robert Greenwald, director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation and a clinical law professor at HLS, said: “Although national, state and local organizations focusing on diabetes have been active for many years, there remains the urgent need for effective programs of community education, grassroots advocacy, coalition building, leadership development, strategic planning and community mobilization – programs that will constructively impact diabetes-related health care policy at the state and national levels. Overcoming the deficit of effective advocacy and implementing policy change regarding diabetes prevention, care and management are essential to improve outcomes at a scale comparable to that seen in the advances with cancer, HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases.”

The grant will support the Center’s Providing Access to Healthy Solutions (PATHS) initiative, which aims to develop comprehensive state-level policy recommendations for eliminating barriers to care, improving outcomes and enhancing health care policy for patients with type 2 diabetes.

PATHS will work on two levels. The Center first will conduct an in-depth, state-based pilot program in Mississippi, New Jersey and North Carolina, in an effort to produce state-level advocacy and policy recommendations. Those recommendations will then serve as a roadmap for ongoing advocacy efforts in other states through a broader information- and network-building effort with Together on Diabetes grantees across the country.

“As the prevalence of type 2 diabetes grows, the country’s ability to reduce health care costs and improve health outcomes depends on how well patients can manage their disease through their access to clinical services and through self management that takes place in their homes and communities,” said John Damonti, president of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and vice president of Corporate Philanthropy at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases as people age. While only 3.7 percent of adults ages 20-44 have diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet, the incidence rate more than triples to 13.7 percent for adults 45-64 and then nearly doubles again to 26.9 percent for adults 65 and older. More importantly, adults with type 2 diabetes are at greater risk for comorbid conditions and complications that can shorten their life expectancy. A 10-year study of 250,000 adults reported last month by CDC and the National Institutes of Health found that a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in middle age reduces a patient’s life span by 10 years.