Tait McKenzie launches outreach program to battle community diabetes

York University’s Fitness & Lifestyles team, along with the Canadian Diabetes Association, kicked off a new outreach program to the Jane and Finch community to help reduce the growing prevalence of diabetes in the North York area.

taitmckenzie-HWith assistance from an Ontario Sport Recreation Communities Fund grant, York University created the Gluco-Fit Project, a health and wellness program targeted to those with Type 2 and pre-diabetes. The Gluco-Fit Project combines nutrition, exercise, and general lifestyle education to assist participants in learning to better manage their condition and better understand the effects their condition can have.

Diabetes can increase the risk of developing other health problems, such as: obesity; high blood pressure or high cholesterol; ocular conditions such as glaucoma or cataracts; nerve damage which can cause vision difficulties or foot complications; and poor blood flow, which can lead to toe, foot or leg amputation.

Participants have the opportunity to work with a certified personal trainer at the Tait McKenzie Fitness Centre located at York’s Keele Campus for three months, with a plan to meet twice a week to develop an exercise routine they will be able to do on their own. Throughout the sessions, the trainer focuses on form to avoid injury, modifying exercises when required.  After the personal training is complete, participants receive a membership to the Tait McKenzie Fitness Centre for nine months, allowing them to continue to exercise.

Through this outreach program, Fitness & Lifestyles took the opportunity to create long-lasting partnerships with the Black Creek Community Health Centre and the Jane and Finch Family Health Team.

“We see many potential benefits for our patients and look forward to their enrollment in the Gluco-Fit program,” said Mark Smith, executive director at Jane Finch Family Health Team in Yorkgate Mall. “The proximity to York University is obviously a great advantage to our community and the generous offering and availability of York facilities through this program is a wonderful opportunity for us as a practice.”

York’s Fitness & Lifestyles team determined the Jane and Finch and Black Creek communities have double the cases of diabetes compared to the rest of the province, which stems from a variety of factors including a diverse ethnic makeup, socio-economic status, as well as genetics. The number of single parent families also plays a role – and average income is 23 per cent below the rest of Toronto. There is a lack of community and recreation centres, which makes it very difficult to find a space to be physically active. Gluco-Fit offers the opportunity for the community to have the resources they need to make important health changes.

Fitness & Lifestyles has also teamed up with York’s Kinesiology Department through Alicia Koebel (Gluco-Fit project coordinator), Professor Rebecca Bassett-Gunter (behaviour & health and psychology), master’s student Luma Ayyoub (health psychology), and Tal Frankel (kinesiology & health science volunteer student). The Gluco-Fit Project has created an opportunity for Ayyoub to research the effect Brief Action Planning (BAP) has on exercise adherence, under the supervision of Bassett-Gunter. The hope of this exit strategy is to increase the likelihood of participants continuing with their exercise routines to further the benefits of regular activity.

Fitness & Lifestyles hopes to receive another grant to be able to offer this program again in September 2017.