hildren and teens are signing up for baseball, soccer and track. Bicycles are out of the garage, and runners are out in shorts and tee shirts. In addition, parents and kids are deciding which camps they want to attend — can they hone in on their football or skiing skills? Or do they want to work on horsemanship? Children with diabetes have one more choice as well — do they want to attend Diabetes Camp? Sounds a bit boring perhaps — but NOT!
Diabetes camp has all the elements of a fun camp in the sun with the addition of some time spent on improving skills for diabetes management. Generally it is in a “teachable moment” environment. Those opportune times when hiking and blood glucose (BG) drops, and the glucose tablets quickly come out of a counselors pockets — ready to treat. Then the teachable moment of, let’s think this through. We are out playing a lot here, how could we prevent future lows while we are doing the same activities tomorrow? Other children come newly diagnosed and can watch all their new friends check a BG level and give an injection, and they decide to try it too.
“One month at a camp will give more experience in childhood diabetes than most physicians get in a lifetime.”
According to the Diabetes Education and Camping Association (DECA)1 there are 196 diabetes camps in the US, and they have identified 37 in countries around the world. In a recent 2016 publication there may be as many as 79 countries offering diabetes camps.2 All these wonderful camps serve more than 50,000 children with diabetes. In addition to the children they serve, they provide an incredible learning experience for medical, pharmacy, nursing and dietetic students AND practitioners. I loved this quote I recently read summarizing McCullagh in 1955: “one month at a camp will give more experience in childhood diabetes than most physicians get in a lifetime.”2 How true! And an amazing amount learned in just a few days of volunteering. I encourage all students and practitioners in the fields of the dietetics, pharmacy and medicine to consider coming to camp!
Although the outcomes of research on the long lasting impact of camp on diabetes management in children is scarce, there are many anecdotal stories of adults stating that camp made such an amazing difference in their self-efficacy and comfort with having type 1 diabetes. Some data does suggest the correlation with attending diabetes camp and long term diabetes management success.
We, as diabetes educators, should not only encourage all the munchkins in our care to go to camp, but consider going to camp as well. If you are new to diabetes education, the learning curve is HUGE. If you are well seasoned in diabetes education, every camp could use your expertise, and…it is an opportunity to travel if you wish. Diabetes camps are in almost every state and over 37-79 countries (depending on the source of record). Join up! I KNOW you will be glad you did!
1. DECA, personal communication 3/31/2016
2. Barone M, Vivolo M, Madden P. Are diabetes camps effective? Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice 114 (2016) 15-22.
About the Author:
Carla Cox is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She has been a certified diabetes educator for over 15 years, and has served as an assistant adjunct professor for 14 years, teaching in areas of sports nutrition and exercise physiology.