In an effort to close healthcare disparity gaps among at-risk diabetes populations – specifically African-American, Hispanic and Native American adults – Merck’s philanthropic arm will commit $15 million to its five-city outreach program.

The program, Alliance to Reduce Disparities in Diabetes, will target low-income, disadvantaged communities where the risk for diabetes is more acute. “Innovative, community-based programs are making real progress reducing the critical gaps in care that are so difficult for many low-income and vulnerable individuals,” said Richard Clark, chairman, president and CEO at Merck, in a statement. “The Alliance aims to support that progress by becoming a mobilizing force in improving outcomes for those who are underserved by current healthcare models and at the most serious risk for diabetes.”

Funding for the program will support community health partners in Chicago (University of Chicago); Dallas (Baylor Healthcare System’s Office of Health Equity); Camden, NJ (Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers); Fort Washakie, WY (Eastern Shoshone Tribe); and Memphis, TN (Health Memphis Common Table). The Center for Managing Chronic Disease at the University of Michigan will serve as the national program office coordinating the Alliance’s efforts, the statement said.

Sanofi-Aventis launched a similar effort last December, which included multiple cities and provided customized information for specific populations. For example, Sanofi created a series of illustrated stories chronicling the challenges faced by the fictional character Gilberto Sanchez, and his family, following the onset of diabetes. The serialized stories resembled comic books, and were created in both English and Spanish.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7.8% of the US population (23.6 million) has diabetes, and 5.7 million people are undiagnosed.  Additionally, African-American, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native adults are twice as likely as white adults to have diabetes, according to the CDC website.