Sports camp for youth with diabetes on this week at York

A new summer sports camp at York will help youth with diabetes manage their condition by experiencing the benefits of exercise and proper nutrition first-hand.

Ten youths with diabetes will join participants in York Sport & Recreation’s Summer Sport Camp, from July 7 to 11, for a program that’s the first of its kind in Canada.

"It’s unique because it’s all about ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’," says Michael Riddell, professor in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science in York’s Faculty of Health, who leads the program. "Participants learn about their blood sugar changes while they exercise, rather than being told what might happen while they exercise. It’s much more effective than learning about diabetes simply in the classroom. People become engaged in their own care."

He notes that doctors have long advocated the benefits of exercise and nutrition counselling, but rising levels of Type 2 diabetes, particularly in the GTA, and in neighbourhoods surrounding York University, show this approach isn’t working.

"We need to have more places in the community that help promote healthy lifestyle changes. No one has implemented, in a manner accessible to the general public, any type of program offering an experiential learning opportunity," says Riddell, who believes peer integration will be essential to the success of the program. "Empowering the participants to have fun and compete with their peers, while removing the stigma around having diabetes, is an important benefit that will build confidence and improve quality of life for these kids."

The sports camp is part of York’s Physical Activity and Diabetes Initiative (PAD), which aims to bring knowledge about diabetes into the community on an active level. It will expand to include a research laboratory and a referral-based clinic. The clinic will initiate referral services from surrounding hospitals and health care clinics to provide fitness assessment and counselling.

Harvey Skinner, dean of York’s Faculty of Health, says the initiative is an example of the Faculty’s push for a health system that integrates preventative action, community-centered health care delivery and a global outlook. "By focusing on improving the social conditions and behaviours of young people as well as their families and health care providers, the PAD initiative will be making great strides toward the Faculty of Health’s mission to keep more people healthier, longer."