June 20, 2024 | Press Release

Unbound to connect U.S. sponsors living with diabetes and individuals in poverty living with diabetes for groundbreaking research

The study will evaluate if social connection between a sponsor and their sponsored friend with a diabetes commonality can improve health outcomes for both

International nonprofit Unbound will soon begin phase two of a noncommunicable diseases pilot program that pairs adults living with diabetes in the U.S. and individuals living with diabetes in the Philippines to study whether social connection benefits their health and well-being.

The pilot program is a three-year partnership between Unbound, a Kansas City-based international development organization that works with families as they build their paths out of poverty, and Chronic Care International (CCI), a Nebraska-based nonprofit dedicated to transforming diabetes care in the developing world. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will partner with the two organizations for phase two of the research study.

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of preventable suffering and death. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), 540 million adults worldwide live with diabetes; three out of four with the disease live in low- and middle-income countries.

In 2023, Unbound partnered with CCI to launch phase one of the noncommunicable diseases pilot in Unbound’s Quezon program in the Philippines, with the goal of establishing a low-cost model of patient-centered care that would improve the health outcomes of 100-150 adults in the organization’s elder sponsorship program.

“This pilot has been a tremendous success thus far with the patient outcomes and the lessons we’re learning,” said Dr. Hans Dethlefs, president and medical director of CCI. “Hopefully, this will set the stage for us to expand this type of work and to show that we’re taking positive strides toward figuring out how to help people who live in poverty with chronic disease to live better.”

Phase two, set to launch later this year, will enroll 100-150 sponsors and sponsored friends. The second phase of research focuses on pairing two individuals living with diabetes — an Unbound sponsor in the U.S. and a sponsored friend in the Philippines — to test if the peer mentorship aspect of their relationship formed via correspondence can improve their health and emotional well-being.

“Research indicates that social connections combined with altruism can improve the management and health outcomes of people living with diabetes,” said Dan Pearson, Unbound’s chief international program officer. “Sponsorship is both of those things — it’s social connection for the sponsor, and it’s the sponsor showing generosity.”


Dr. Hans Dethlefs, president and medical director for Chronic Care International, takes the blood pressure of Unbound sponsored elder and noncommunicable diseases pilot participant Monica, 73, at her home in the Philippines.

CCI’s data-driven model of care consists of training local medical professionals to administer and monitor care, and providing basic medications, self-care education and emotional support to diabetes patients. Phase one of the pilot has exceeded goals for participant process and outcomes measures.

For as little as $40 a month — the monthly minimum to sponsor an individual through Unbound — phase one has successfully provided a low-cost model of patient-centered care for diabetes patients in the Philippines.

Experts with Unbound and Chronic Care International are set to share information about the partnership, initial successes of the program and future plans at the American Diabetes Association’s 84th Scientific Sessions June 21-24, 2024, in Orlando, Florida.

Learn more about the upcoming phase two of the noncommunicable diseases pilot.

Learn more about Unbound and Chronic Care International’s partnership and outcomes thus far with the noncommunicable diseases pilot program.


The noncommunicable diseases pilot is a partnership between Unbound, Unbound’s Quezon program in the Philippines and Chronic Care International. Pictured are members of all three teams — made up of physicians, educators and international development experts — at the Quezon program office in February 2024.