Pacific teams with Abbott Fund to tackle diabetes crisis in Stockton

Student and Professor

Pacific's partnership with the Abbott Fund will help create a pipeline of community health care workers trained in diabetes education and management in Stockton.

University of the Pacific and the Abbott Fund, the foundation of the global healthcare company Abbott, are joining forces to battle one of the most challenging chronic illnesses – diabetes. San Joaquin County sits at the epicenter of the problem, and in Stockton alone, almost 50 percent of adults have prediabetes and 10 percent have diabetes. Pacific aims to help improve those numbers thanks in part to a generous gift from the Abbott Fund to hire Pacific faculty and to develop curriculum in diabetes education. In the midst of a global pandemic, where people with preexisting conditions like diabetes are at risk of experiencing more serious complications from COVID-19, the partnership couldn’t come at a better time.

“The need is high and we’re excited to contribute to building a healthier city through education, community partnership and patient advocacy,” said Maria Pallavicini, provost of University of the Pacific. “It is through partnerships, collaboration, commitment, and leveraging resources that healthier communities are built.”

The gift will create certificate programs in diabetes education through Pacific’s Benerd College geared towards working health care professionals. Students will gain foundational skills like how to manage the different types of diabetes and how to care for patients during natural disasters and medical emergencies – something Abbott has experienced firsthand. In recent months, the company has received national attention for its work to develop diagnostic tests for COVID-19.

The gift will also support the development of a diabetes track in the Master of Science in Social Work (MSW) program in Pacific’s new School of Health Sciences. Generous scholarships are also planned for students in the certificate and master’s degree programs who are committed to serving patients in Stockton after completing their coursework.

The focus on Stockton not only addresses the prevalence of the disease, but also the shortage of care providers in the region, particularly a shortage of diabetes educators – a symptom of a nationwide shortage. According to the American Association of Diabetes Educators, for every certified diabetes educator, there are an estimated 1,600 patients in need of services. In addition, the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development identified portions of Stockton as Primary Care Shortage Areas and designated San Joaquin County as a Registered Nurse Shortage Area (RNSA). Given these statistics, the Abbott Fund’s investment will bring welcome relief to a community in dire need of more health care professionals.

Pacific’s partnership with the Abbott Fund is part of a larger umbrella program launched by the company called Future Well Communities. The program aims to tackle chronic disease by focusing on social determinants of health (SDOHs), the social and economic barriers that influence health, with a strong focus on multicultural health. Through Future Well Communities, Abbott and the Abbott Fund will work in close collaboration with local government, leading institutions and community groups to address the diabetes epidemic in Stockton.

“All too often, people's health is determined by their zip code,” said Suki McClatchey, Director of Global Citizenship at Abbott. “The everyday conditions in which we're born, live, learn, work and play have a significant impact on the health of individuals, families and communities. Together with the University of the Pacific, we're working to help address an important part of this challenge: a shortage of trained health workers.”   

As the educational anchor institution in Stockton and San Joaquin County with a reputation for graduating career-ready practitioners in the health sciences, Pacific is uniquely positioned to educate the next generation of health care professionals who will lead the fight against the chronic disease.