Child & Youth Diabetes

Ensuring equitable access to high-quality diabetes prevention, treatment and support programs for children, youth and their families.

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in children and youth. Type 1 diabetes, the main form of the disease in children, has been increasing around the world and is occurring much earlier in life. Type 2 diabetes, which used to be thought of as an adult disease, has been rising in Canada and globally in children and youth over the past two decades. Significant increases in overweight/obesity and physical inactivity are likely contributing to the growth of type 2 diabetes in children and youth. Diabetes during pregnancy, which heightens the risk of developing type 2 diabetes for both the mother and the child, has also been increasing steadily. The early onset of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes increases the risk for related complications, such as kidney disease, blindness and amputations. Once diagnosed with diabetes, children and youth must manage the disease throughout their lives.

Indigenous populations and certain ethno-cultural groups (African, Hispanic, Asian and South Asian) are at a disproportionately high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes has reached epidemic levels in some Indigenous communities, which have also seen higher rates of type 2 diabetes in children and gestational diabetes in women than in non-Indigenous communities. Given the significance of this health issue, the Lawson Foundation has supported, and will continue to support through its Child & Youth Diabetes Strategy, a number of Indigenous communities across Canada in their efforts to prevent and manage diabetes and its complications.


A history of support for prevention, management and research

The Lawson Foundation’s interest in supporting diabetes prevention, management and research dates back to the 1970s when the Foundation endowed the Helen and Frances Lawson Chair in Diabetes Research for the Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ontario. In the 1990s, the Foundation supported two groundbreaking, community-based diabetes prevention projects – the Kahnawake Schools Diabetes Prevention Project (KSDPP) and the Latin American Diabetes Prevention Project. Inspired by the success of these initiatives and in response to growing concern around the challenges of diabetes and the potential of innovative approaches to improve diabetes prevention and management, the Foundation introduced a Canada-wide Diabetes Strategy in 2001-02. Over the next 14 years, the Foundation invested $9,000,000 in a broad range of community-based projects located in urban centres and rural and remote areas, and that served diverse populations including children, young adults, pregnant women, Indigenous, ethno-cultural communities and individuals with severe mental health issues. The Foundation also contributed an additional $2,500,000 to the Lawson Chair to ensure continued support for diabetes research.

A new strategy focusing on children and youth

In 2015, the Foundation renewed its overall Strategic Direction to focus its impact areas on the healthy development of children and youth. In that same year, the Foundation committed $1,200,000 over five years towards the Developmental Origins of Chronic Disease in Children Network (DEVOTION), a cluster of scientists, patients, policy makers and stakeholders whose aim is to address the burden and costs associated with chronic disease in Manitoba. The Lawson Foundation’s investment supports participation of an Indigenous scholar and three Indigenous community-based research coordinators. In 2016 and in concert with the new Strategic Direction, the Foundation launched the Child & Youth Diabetes Strategy to address the challenges faced by children, youth and their families with or at risk for diabetes and its complications. The Strategy’s goals are:

  • To improve health outcomes for children and youth with type 1 or type 2 diabetes or who are at risk of developing diabetes and diabetes-related complications through prevention, treatment and improved self-management.
  • To optimize the health of women with a history of gestational diabetes in order to help ensure the health of their offspring and families.
  • To ensure equitable access to high-quality diabetes prevention, treatment and support programs and services for all children, youth and their families.

2017 Child & Youth Diabetes Cohort

The initiatives funded by the Child & Youth Diabetes Strategy seek to strengthen the delivery of programs and services by translating knowledge into clinical practice and community programming. They will pilot new community-based interventions, expand existing evidence-based programs, and create tools, resources and training to engage and support children and youth, parents, health professionals, teachers and school staff, community representatives and policy makers. All projects include an evaluation component and a plan for sharing results and learning. In keeping with the Strategy’s cohort approach, we will bring our grantees together periodically to share, learn and connect with each other and with other influencers in the field.

Projects are based in various settings – rural and First Nations communities, inner-city neighbourhoods, schools and clinics – and range in scope from local to regional to national. They serve high-risk, vulnerable populations including Indigenous communities, South Asian and other ethno-cultural populations, youth who are transitioning from pediatric to adult services, and families who are dealing with issues of poverty and food insecurity. Two remote Cree communities in northern Quebec and northwest central Manitoba are implementing initiatives to build their capacity to address diabetes in their communities. The Lawson Foundation believes it is important to support the work of these communities as part of the Foundation’s commitment to Reconciliation.

Explore the projects


Understand our Impact

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Have an idea?

We are always interested in hearing about new ideas. If you have carefully read our Strategic Direction and believe that your work is closely aligned to it, we invite you to put your innovative ideas forward for potential funding support via our Ideas Portal.

Related News and Updates

Breaking the Cycle of Diabetes in South Asians

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$2.6 million in funding awarded to 12 diabetes projects across Canada

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Lawson Foundation announces new diabetes funding

Lawson Foundation announces new diabetes funding

Toronto (Ontario) March 3, 2016 – Diabetes prevention, treatment and management initiatives focused on the healthy development of children and youth will receive a substantial boost with funding announced today. The Foundation has not predetermined the funding...

Pre-Announcement: Funding Call in March 2016

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