A $335,000 grant from the HHS Office of Minority Health will help the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) strengthen its chronic disease management programs for patients with lupus, the organization announced this week.
The Lupus Initiative, a national educational program intended to improve quality of life and outcomes for patients with the autoimmune disease, has received funding from the Office of the Minority Health (OMH) for seven years in a row.
In 2015, ACR received $500,000 from the OMH to develop a model that reduces barriers to diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing management needs for minority patients who may have trouble accessing necessary care.
“The model allows for primary care providers to treat a person with lupus on their own, or co-manage with a geographically-distant rheumatologist, until an appropriate referral can be made. Additionally, we focus on increasing the awareness of the people in these ‘silent spaces’ about lupus’ signs and symptoms,” said Sheryl McCalla, JD, TLI Project Director and ACR Senior Director, Collaborative Initiatives.
The ACR has made a particular effort to improve lupus-related educational materials and provider education in rural and underserved regions of Southwest Georgia and the Pacific Northwest, where a shortage of rheumatologists means that many patients face long wait times or difficult journeys to access care.
“Lupus can be a debilitating, chronic illnesses but it could be managed if resources were available,” said Sam Lim, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Emory University and a nationally recognized lupus expert. “TLI will establish an evidence-based model that other organizations, communities, and agencies can replicate to deliver provider education and access to care for patients in need.”
The ongoing project includes collaborations with community organizations and local healthcare providers, including the Emory University School of Medicine, Southwest Georgia Area Health Education Center, Cascades East Area Health Education Center, Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition, Inc., and St. Charles Rheumatology Clinic.
“This model is the first of its kind to establish a method to penetrate the most difficult to reach, but most affected populations – communities in rural and micropolitan areas of the U.S. where there is a shortage of rheumatologists,” said Lim.
“The TLI evidence-based model can be replicated by other organizations, communities, and agencies to deliver provider education and access to care for patients in need.”