The project improving Diabetes Care through Empowerment, Active Collaboration and Leadership (IDEAL) is a collaborative translational research project of the Minnesota Diabetes Program (MDP) at the Minnesota Department of Health and HealthPartners (HP), a large managed care organization. The research was designed to test a quality improvement model to improve diabetes care delivery and outcomes in primary care clinics, but the collaboration was structured from the beginning to maximize potential secondary effects. The MDP and HP participated jointly in every aspect of the project. Personnel from other health care systems and academic and quality improvement organizations also participated in IDEAL. Secondary effects included heightened priority for diabetes care improvement at HP and within its medical group, along with an increased emphasis on a population approach for both of these organizations. Simultaneously, the MDP developed a better understanding of the issues and potential for improving care in primary care clinics, medical groups, and managed care organizations. These benefits resulted in further collaboration between the MDP, HP, and other managed care, health care, and quality improvement organizations in Minnesota. Thus, Project IDEAL has been a successful collaboration of public health and managed care whose contribution to improved diabetes care in Minnesota health systems extends far beyond the original scope of the project.