By Ally O’Connor
For 69 years, American Diabetes Association camps have served as a lifeline for youth ages 4-18 with diabetes and their families, allowing children to develop the critical skills they need to thrive while managing this disease. On-site medical volunteers teach campers how to check blood glucose, count carbohydrates, independently administer insulin, and develop a better understanding of diabetes care. More than 2,000 health professionals volunteer each year, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, social workers, certified diabetes educators, and nursing and dietetic students. With ongoing research and breakthrough discoveries developing in the diabetes space, health professionals continue to embrace emerging diabetes technology in varied camp environments.
Laurie Diasio, RN, has been volunteering at camp for the past 18 years, first as a nurse and now as the Health Team Coordinator at Camp Triangle D in Illinois. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 3, attended camp from 1979-1983, and recalls a significantly different medical routine throughout her years as a camper.
“We did not have blood glucose meters at that time,” Diasio said. “Campers would line up at the bathroom with urine cups and bring the samples to the health center to be tested for glucose. Lows, which were based on how the camper felt rather than an actual blood glucose number, were treated with Karo® syrup.”
Fast forward to year 2000, when Laurie first made the transition from camper to volunteer—only five campers at Camp Triangle D were using insulin pumps at that time. Now, 18 years later, 75 percent of campers in Illinois and across the country are using some type of insulin pump or continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system. Camp health professionals have kept pace, altering their teaching methods to ensure children can manage diabetes at camp with the same tools and technology they use at school and at home. The days of urine samples and Karo syrup are far behind us.
To stay ahead of the curve, the ADA hosted a conference in December 2017 to examine and address how to keep the camp experience up to date with the latest technology. At the conference, 41 stakeholders, including leaders from the ADA’s camp network, the Diabetes Education and Camping Association (DECA), industry representatives, ADA Youth and Family Initiatives staff, and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust convened in Arlington, Virginia, to plan for the future of camp.
Carla Cox, PhD, RD, CDE, Kelly Mueller, MS, PMP, Lowell Schmeltz, MD, FACE, and David Weber, MD, MSCE, led this group in creating a living document, “Best Practices for the Use of Diabetes Technology at Summer Camp,” to share preferred procedures and information with medical volunteers across the country. The group purposely chose the term “living document” rather than “guideline” since technology is moving so quickly and recommendations are being updated as products change and are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Schmeltz trusts that “by challenging protocols and not just tolerating, but embracing these new technologies, we have the opportunity to revolutionize how diabetes care at camp happens.”
The ADA strongly believes that children with diabetes should have access to the modifications and accommodations needed to ensure their safe and full participation in camp programs. Implementing and embracing new technologies will only encourage more independence and confidence in management among campers with type 1 diabetes.
The ADA Camp program would not be possible without the support of the health professionals who donate their time and the many corporate and foundation partners who provide medication, supplies, educational materials, and financial support. Thank you to Novo Nordisk, Lilly Diabetes, The Helmsley Charitable Trust, The Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, and Walgreens for supporting day and residential camp operations across the country.