Child & Youth Diabetes Strategy – Current Focus



The Board of Directors of the Lawson Foundation has approved a new direction for the Child & Youth Diabetes Strategy (CYDS). Going forward, the Lawson Foundation will narrow the focus of the CYDS to concentrate on the prevention of type 2 diabetes in northern and remote Indigenous communities in Canada. 

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. 


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

The Foundation is launching its next Child & Youth Diabetes Strategy with a more strategic focus on 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. 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. Through the CYDS, the Foundation will support community-based research and knowledge development projects with the potential to inform and inspire others for broader impact. The Foundation will also support public policy development and advocacy initiatives, understanding that there can be little transformational change at the structural/systemic level without addressing public policy. Funded projects will reflect the contemporary realities of Indigenous Peoples and their perspectives on their health status and futures. 


Our Approach

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.

The scope of projects that could be funded will be fairly broad, including, for instance, piloting an entirely new initiative, testing a new idea as part of an existing model, and supporting new and existing relationships and networks to share knowledge and resources and for scaling. No matter the type of project, we will support initiatives with the potential to build the knowledge base, strengthen capacity, and inform and inspire other work.  

Below are some examples of potential initiatives that could be eligible for funding. Please note that these are examples only to give applicants a sense of the broad scope of initiatives that could be supported through the CYDS. We are looking for your innovative ideas and approaches, some of which may be very different from the examples presented here.

  • Primary care approaches and broad interdisciplinary teams that include, for example, both community leaders (e.g., recreation director, schoolteacher) and healthcare professionals


  • Community-based research/initiatives that will build a knowledge base, strengthen capacity and lead to a better understanding of how to address diabetes prevention and health promotion at the community level


  • Initiatives that explore the concept of social cohesion and the complexity of dynamic community relationships that may change over time as communities address opportunities and challenges. What does this mean for diabetes prevention and care?


  • Initiatives that explore how equity-oriented approaches could reinforce connections and relationships and lead to improvement in the overall quality of diabetes prevention and care


  • Projects that convene existing and new partners and knowledge-sharing networks to share resources and expand capacity for diabetes prevention and care


  • Projects that explore the impact of determinants of health, knowledge exchange and connections on the health literacy gap as a structural issue that affects access to resources for individuals and communities. How is this issue perpetuated by systems in our society?


  • Public policy development and advocacy initiatives that seek to address systems change


Related: Call for Letters of Intent: Prevention of type 2 diabetes in northern and remote Indigenous communities

Understand our Impact

Access information about our granting history and the projects that we fund in our Grants Navigator

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.

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