Child & Youth Diabetes Strategy – Current Focus


The Diabetes Epidemic

Diabetes outcomes for all populations are of concern throughout the world and diabetes rates in younger populations are increasing. The International Diabetes Federation lists Canada among the worst OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries for diabetes prevalence.

In Canada, Indigenous populations – First Nations, Inuit and Métis – are exceptionally burdened with diabetes and its complications due to the disruptive impact of colonization on, for example, strength of culture and social cohesion, governance systems and ownership/stewardship relationships, and access to land. For example, First Nations Peoples who are now 20 years old face up to an 80% risk of developing diabetes in their lifetimes and in some subgroups within this population, the risk is even higher. 

Diabetes prevention and care is not just about physical health but also involves spiritual, emotional and mental aspects as well as financial security. Diabetes is a complex disease with multiple risk factors that vary by social circumstances, reflecting inadequate and unfair distribution of resources and opportunities, or what is referred to as social inequities. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged already limited opportunities with respect to diabetes prevention and care for Indigenous Peoples and has underscored the need to address the broader structural forces that affect health and wellbeing. Recognizing Indigenous organizations and communities are mobilizing significant diabetes-related efforts to create and implement community solutions, there is an urgency to enhance and support them. 

In addition to the human costs of diabetes, if prevalence in Canada generally grows by 40% over the next decade as projected, the financial costs that would be borne by all levels of government and patients associated with treating diabetes will reach $39 billion by 2028. Research conducted by the Diabetes Reduction Solutions Lab, led by Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, has shown that the average lifetime present value cost burden of diabetes in certain remote First Nations communities in Manitoba is $285,300 per patient. For example, if even 100 people in those communities were newly diagnosed with diabetes, then the additional lifetime cost burden would be over $28 million. 


Lawson Foundation’s Response

In 2021, the Foundation convened a group of strategic advisors to help us develop our approach. The advisors brought to our discussions a broad range of expertise and experience, including a deep knowledge of work in northern and remote Indigenous communities and in pediatric endocrinology, nursing, family medicine, community development, and equity in health care. Their expertise and advice were critical to creating a diabetes strategy in which Indigenous ways of knowing and being are integral to our approach. 

Given the Foundation’s overall focus on the healthy development of children and youth, the CYDS will centre its work on children, youth and their families, including maternal and peri-natal health. Funded projects will have an impact on Indigenous organizations and communities in northern and remote regions, where geography can often amplify health-related inequities.

The Foundation has made a 10-year commitment to the CYDS, recognizing that it takes time to build the knowledge, relationships and trust needed to develop and implement community-based initiatives as well as to measure outcomes. We see this strategy as a journey we will make together with Indigenous partners. The 10-year time frame allows the Foundation to hold an initial funding call plus some convening to test our approach, to reflect on progress and promising results, and to adapt and implement future funding and convening approaches.


Types of Projects and Funding

Through the CYDS, the Foundation will support initiatives that address the prevention of type 2 diabetes in northern and remote Indigenous communities in Canada. The focus on prevention includes health promotion approaches as well as care for those living with diabetes to prevent complications. We will look to fund the development, implementation and measurement of community-based prevention and health promotion initiatives that have a strong focus on knowledge exchange. We will also support projects and activities that seek to inform sound public policy.

As we begin this journey, the Foundation has made an initial investment of over $3 million in ten Indigenous-led initiatives over the next three years. These projects will have an impact on Indigenous organizations and communities in northern and remote regions, where geography can often amplify health-related inequities. The first cohort of funded projects reflects the contemporary realities of Indigenous Peoples and their perspectives on their health status and futures. More information about the ten funded demonstration projects is available here.


Virtual Learning Series 

This quarterly series will feature different speaker(s) on topics related to health and Indigenous communities. The goal of the series is to inform participants from various sectors about Indigenous communities and their relationships with health and wellness, as well as with chronic disease like diabetes. Meetings through this series will foster and encourage relationships between speakers, foundation and nonprofit leaders, as well as researchers and policy makers who are looking at working with and better supporting Indigenous communities.

Learn more about the series and register to attend an upcoming episode.

Related News and Updates

Director, Diabetes Prevention Hiring Announcement

Director, Diabetes Prevention Hiring Announcement

We are thrilled to announce that Jeff LaPlante has joined the Lawson Foundation as our new Director, Diabetes Prevention. Jeff joins the Lawson team at a critical time as we sharpen our Child & Youth Diabetes focus to concentrate on the prevention of type 2...

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