A Camp for Healthy Habits
Native Youth Preventing Diabetes is for American Indian kids ages 8 to 12
Five nights of camp may make a lifetime of difference for kids at great risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Native Youth Preventing Diabetes (NYPD) in Shawnee, Okla., is a five-day overnight camp devoted to helping kids build healthy habits that last a lifetime. Now in its 13th year, NYPD serves about 140 Native American kids every year, says Michelle Dennison, MS, RD, LD, BC-ADM, CDE, director and cofounder of the camp. Campers must be sponsored by one of 18 Oklahoma tribes that support the camp in order to attend.
“This is primarily and almost solely an education camp,” Dennison says. “We do classes on nutrition, on diabetes prevention, on self-esteem and coping, and we intersperse things like swimming and physical activities.”
The youth are 8 to 12 years old, and most are overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, which is more common in American Indians than in any other racial group. So the camp’s medical staff of primary care doctors, registered dietitians, nurse practitioners, psychologists, and fitness trainers is on site all week. Staff members test the kids’ fasting blood glucose levels, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and other indicators of health, and share the results with parents and the children’s tribal doctors.
The combination of health screenings, education, and physical activities, presented specifically for American Indian kids, makes NYPD camp special, says Lancer Stephens, PhD, a volunteer at the camp and a member of the American Diabetes Association’s American Indian/Alaska Native Initiative Subcommittee. And he knows that the messages from camp are getting through to kids—and their families.
“To go to the camp and see 150 little ones running around, it just gives you life,” Stephens says. “It never fails, there’s always a mother that will call one of the dietitians at the camp and say, ‘My son won’t let me buy Cap’n Crunch anymore, my daughter won’t let me cook like this anymore.’ We’re changing lives. This is why we preach the message and do what we do.”
ADA Diabetes Camps may still have openings for this summer’s sessions. Visit diabetes.org/camps to find a camp near you.
To learn more about this year’s camp (June 9 to 13) or apply, visit nypdkids.org.