Science & Research

Tackling Type 2 diabetes

Recreational program may help prevent chronic condition

BY LIZ KATYNSKI
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, November / December 2012

Studying how physical activity can be used to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes is near and dear to Dr. Jon McGavock's heart.

In fact, his research focuses on the cardiovascular complications in youth that are associated with Type 2 diabetes. His work in this area has taken him to the Garden Hill First Nation. Located in northeast Manitoba, Garden Hill has a Type 2 diabetes rate that's 400 to 500 times higher than the general population.

A few years ago, McGavock and key stakeholders from Garden Hill set out to determine whether a peer mentoring program called Rec and Read could help reduce that rate by encouraging young people to eat healthier and become more physically active, two factors associated with reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.

"Rec and Read encourages people to adopt a healthier lifestyle, get active and improve their self-esteem so they can become role models for others in their community," says McGavock, an associate professor of Pediatrics and Child Health at the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Medicine, and coleader of Diabetes Research Envisioned and Accomplished in Manitoba at the Manitoba Institute for Child Health.

Rec and Read was developed by Dr. Joannie Halas, Associate Dean, Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management at the U of M, and McGavock worked with her to expand the model for the prevention of Type 2 diabetes.

In the Garden Hill version, local high school students were hired to deliver a program of healthy snacks, physical activities and bonding within a traditional medicine wheel concept to about 80 Grade 4 students in 2010/11 and 2011/12. Although it's too early to tell whether it can help reduce Type 2 diabetes rates, the program has had a positive effect. Teen mentors from Garden Hill recently shared their take on the program at a special presentation attended by 75 members of the Faculty of Medicine. Many felt inspired by their presentations, says McGavock. "It motivated us to see a lot of hope for the future, for people facing an overwhelming burden of chronic disease."

Wave: November / December 2012

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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