Emory Project to Curb Diabetes, Hypertension Advances toward $100M MacArthur Grant

Staff Report From Metro Atlanta CEO

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

Emory University’s proposal to end death and disability from diabetes and hypertension for millions of people in India is among the top 100 projects under consideration for a $100 million grant by the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change competition.

Led by a team of diabetes and chronic diseases researchers at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, “Destination Zero” comprises experts from multiple disciplines in the United States and India.

With 1 in 5 people affected by diabetes or hypertension in India, the country is a critical battleground to reverse the global rise and devastation from these two chronic conditions. Destination Zero envisions reaching more than 100 million Indians across 100 districts using a proven suite of prevention and treatment tools that were developed over a decade of field testing in India.

“There is strong evidence that simple technologies, coupled with lifestyle education and low-cost medications, when delivered effectively can substantially prevent diabetes, hypertension, and their complications," says K.M. Venkat Narayan, MD, Destination Zero team lead and director of the Emory Global Diabetes Research Center.

“In Destination Zero, we will leverage existing infrastructure to deliver these interventions. With a solution that is proven to be effective and affordable, the program will demonstrate that the devastation wreaked by diabetes and hypertension – the two silent killers of the 21st century – can be thwarted,” says Narayan.

While India has close to 20 percent of the world’s population afflicted by diabetes and hypertension, these chronic conditions affect 1.4 billion people around the world at a staggering $1 trillion cost to the global economy.

The top 100 applicants represent the top 21 percent of competition submissions, according to a statement from MacArthur’s 100&Change. The vetting involved multiple steps including an administrative review, peer-to-peer review, an evaluation by an external panel of judges, and a technical review by subject matter specialists.

“We are proud that Destination Zero is in the top 100 of the MacArthur competition which rewards initiatives that seek to change the world,” says Jonathan S. Lewin, MD, Emory’s executive vice president of health affairs.

“Destination Zero embodies the best of Emory’s values: impact, collaboration, and compassion. The lessons learned about preventing and managing diabetes and hypertension in India could potentially be applied to other parts of the world, including right here in our backyard, Georgia,” says Lewin.

In spring, the MacArthur Foundation's board of directors will select up to 10 finalists from these top scoring proposals.

Best known for its MacArthur Fellowships or Genius Grants, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation began the 100&Change competition to find and fund a single proposal that helps solve one of the world’s most critical social challenges.

The competition is held once every three years. Since the first contest in 2017, other funders and philanthropists have committed an additional $419 million to date to support bold solutions by 100&Change applicants.

As one of the top 100 applicants, Destination Zero is now part of a searchable online database: The Bold Solutions Network was designed to provide an innovative approach to identifying the most effective, enduring solutions aligned with donors’ philanthropic goals and to help top applicants gain visibility and support from a wide array of funders.

The digital repository contains a project overview, 90-second video, and two-page factsheet for each proposal. Visitors can sort by subject, location, sustainable development goal, or beneficiary population to view proposals based on area of interest.

The inaugural $100 million prize was awarded to a joint proposal by Sesame Workshop and International Rescue Committee to educate young children displaced by conflict and persecution in Syria.