Innovative Diabetes Prevention Program Launches

Innovative Diabetes Prevention Program Launches in Bergen County 

The Russell Berrie Foundation Invests in Collaborative Community-Based Model

TEANECK, N.J. — Building on substantial research, The Russell Berrie Foundation is embarking on a new, experimental effort to invest in diabetes prevention by supporting the creation of two innovative community-based prevention initiatives in Bergen County. 

The pilot initiatives will draw on knowledge that has emerged from the field of diabetes care and prevention, along with a recognition of the powerful role that trusted community-based institutions can play in translating clinician recommendations into the real-world circumstances of people's daily lives. 

“We cannot end diabetes through treatment alone,” said Angelica Berrie, president of the board of trustees of The Russell Berrie Foundation. “The Russell Berrie Foundation’s diabetes prevention initiative is a partnership with Bergen County organizations and institutions we have supported, to create a sustainable lifestyle for our community.”

The effort consists of three $200,000 grants, two of which are being awarded to the Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation and BVMI (the Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative) to design, refine and implement community-focused diabetes prevention programs in the cities of Garfield and Hackensack, respectively. 

The third grantee, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, will provide ongoing technical and strategic assistance. A team drawn from the Icahn School of Medicine’s Department of Population Health Science and Policy and its Center for Health Equity and Community Engaged Research will ensure that the Garfield and Hackensack programs are as effective as possible, and that their experiences lead to learning that can strengthen the field. The grants will cover a three-year time span.

“Nutrition and exercise are essential to preventing and successfully managing Type 2 diabetes, and with these initiatives we are trying to ensure that local residents have access to affordable healthy food, physical activity opportunities and other proven measures,” said Ruth Salzman, chief executive officer of The Russell Berrie Foundation.

“Bergen County is home to a growing infrastructure of change-makers who are gaining traction around healthcare and food access,” Salzman continued. “By engaging this trusted network of emerging leaders, who understand the nuances of people's lives, cultures and communities, we hope to create an environment in which more people will be successful.”

The two Bergen County lead grant recipients will work closely with a constellation of well-regarded local organizations. In Garfield, the Health Awareness Regional Program (HARP) of Hackensack University Medical Center, which has a strong track record providing more than 1,200 health promotion programs to over 28,000 participants in northern New Jersey, will work in partnership with the City of Garfield Health Department and multiple others. The Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative (BVMI), which will be leading the effort in Hackensack, is a longtime grantee of The Russell Berrie Foundation that provides free primary and preventive medical care to low-income, uninsured Bergen County residents. BVMI will also work in partnership with other locally-based organizations. Both will collaborate with America’s Grow-a-Row, which provides free, fresh produce to those in need (and whose founder is a previous Russ Berrie Making a Difference Awards top winner). 

“We are thrilled by the potential we see to create authentic, sustainable and community-specific pathways to diabetes prevention in Garfield and Hackensack,” Salzman said. “We are also optimistic that working together, and alongside the skilled professionals at the Icahn School of Medicine, these capable organizations will make measurable inroads in diabetes prevention that can be replicated elsewhere.”