Philanthropy is often celebrated as a resilient, nimble source of funding, which gives this asset class distinct advantages. It can be deployed quickly, and can take risks in ways that other forms of capital cannot. It is also "patient" capital, able to wait longer for returns to materialize. These reasons together explain why there are many calls for philanthropists to leverage their capital in pursuit of long- and short-term solutions to a variety of issues. And while the call to action is valid and often answered, the natural question is "How?" How can philanthropy be deployed strategically to yield measurable change, particularly when the issues are complex and multi-dimensional?

Implementation roadmaps, such as Giving Smarter: Philanthropic Opportunities to Advance Bipolar Disorder  and Targeting Tau – Our Hope for Solving the Dementia Crisis, with specific action items have been a proven resource to communities, including philanthropists, working to move a field forward.

One of the latest calls to philanthropy is coming from within the type 1 diabetes (T1D) community to implement screening for autoantibodies that are predictive of T1D's onset. Once commonly known as juvenile diabetes, T1D is an autoimmune disease with a pre-symptomatic stage of variable length. A large proportion of cases onset in childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, but the disease can develop at any age.

Screening for T1D autoantibodies would allow for follow-up education and monitoring for those likely to eventually have symptomatic T1D. This would reduce the likelihood that individuals would experience diabetic ketoacidosis at onset and have potential long-term complications. While stakeholders can all agree that screening could be a benefit, there are many pieces that need to be in place before implementation in the general population is an option.

Implementing Autoantibody Screening

Adoption and implementation of new preventive health care measures is complex, especially in children, and involves coordination and collaboration amongst many groups such as researchers, clinicians, the pharmaceutical industry, patient advocacy groups, payors, and groups that review and implement policy. The Milken Institute has worked with the community to develop a roadmap that outlines a comprehensive framework of the topic in order to balance short- and long-term gains that can be made by the field. This framework leverages existing community assets,  such as established screening programs, to develop tools and clinical practice guidelines rapidly  while  stakeholders work to identify the key studies necessary to show benefits of T1D screening within the US general population. Data generated from these studies can ultimately be used to establish policies for T1D screening in the general pediatric population.

The Type 1 Diabetes Autoantibody Screening Implementation Roadmap, generously funded by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust contains six goals, each with a series of action items. The goals of the roadmap encompass all necessary steps for the implementation of screening such as developing clinical practice guidelines, building the evidence for general population autoantibody screening, supporting the therapeutic pipelines and increasing clinician and public knowledge and awareness of T1D and autoantibody screening. In order to achieve the ultimate goal of general population autoantibody screening, the entire T1D community will need to come together in support of the roadmap. For philanthropists, this includes engaging in this work not only as funders, but also as leaders, collaborators and coordinators.

As is often the case with complex issues that require coordinated funding, there are many stakeholders, each with their own role to play in achieving the ultimate goal. Communities, including philanthropists, can find actionable roadmaps to be a crucial tool in supporting the achievement of their goal. With the help of a neutral coordinating body, the community can strategically focus time and resources on each of the action items. As goals are achieved, progress can often accelerate toward achievement of the final objective.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and Nov. 14 is World Diabetes Day. This global effort aims to bring attention to diabetes care, cure and prevention. Autoantibody screening is a crucial component of the landscape, and this roadmap offers a path with concrete solutions for philanthropists to engage as the community works toward the goal.

The full implementation roadmap can be found on the Center for Strategic Philanthropy website.