Photo courtesy: Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.

Engaging youth in Type 2 diabetes prevention

A community-led initiative with Cowessess First Nation. The Public Health Agency of Canada in partnership with Impact Canada awards $600,000 to Dr. Hassan Vatanparast

By Jason Belhumeur

Public Health Agency of Canada in partnership with Impact Canada awards $600,000 to Dr. Hassan Vatanparast and his team for their project, titled “Engaging youth in Type 2 diabetes prevention: a community-led initiative with Cowessess First Nation”

This continues the partnership and collaborative efforts with the Cowessess First Nation to promote health and tackle the high rates of type 2 diabetes. The team developed the following statement as their guiding direction for the project: "our community will overcome the barriers to a healthy lifestyle by engaging youth as change agents in decolonized, culturally-informed, and co-designed health promotion initiatives that reduce T2D sigma and increase awareness and self-efficacy".

The project includes four phases: (1) a youth-led needs assessment to comprehensively assess the burden of diabetes among the youths’ families, they key barriers to healthy lifestyles, the needs for prevention and support, as well as the youths’ diabetes knowledge, attitudes, and practices; (2) empowerment and idea generation for youth through a 12-week interactive course to expand on knowledge, skills, critical thinking, and confidence within Cowessess youth while generating ideas for a youth-led T2D prevention initiative; (3) co-design a customized youth-led initiative; and (4) co-pilot test the community-wide youth-led initiative.

This work and being a successful PHAC T2D Challenge Stage 3 recipient acknowledges the hard work and dedication of Dr. Vatanparast’s research team and Cowessess First Nation - they have been working collaboratively for several years to promote health among the community and are now focusing on youth. Youth provide a vital and fresh perspective while acting as change agents for their community.

“Our team believes that this initiative will have a great impact for both the community of Cowessess First Nation as well as other communities in Canada. Our project will help identify a path forward and define a method to develop community-specific youth-led initiatives for type 2 diabetes. Over the short term we anticipate our initiative will help increase awareness of type 2 diabetes risk factors and strategies for prevention while over the medium and long-term, we aim to increase self-efficacy and empower community members, reduce the stigma associated with type 2 diabetes, and reduce type 2 diabetes risk factors, and ultimately improve health outcomes within Cowessess First Nation.”

- Dr. Hassan Vatanparast

Working with and empowering youth to lead their community toward healthy futures is a key element that makes this initiative unique. Additionally, this initiative takes a community-based participatory action approach such that, it is the community who leads the change while Dr. Vatanparast’s research team provides support to help Cowessess youth accomplish their goals.


*The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the Public Health Agency of Canada.