Relationships, drugs, alcohol, school, work and body image issues aren’t usually the first things that come to mind when you hear Type 1 diabetes. But for young adults, between ages 18-24, those are precisely the things they’re grappling with.

No one knows this better than Dr. Andrew Advani, a staff endocrinologist at St. Michael’s Hospital. His face immediately lights up when asked to talk about the young people he treats at St. Michael’s Young Adult Diabetes Clinic. 

“There’s a lot going on in their lives other than their health issues. They often have very interesting stories to tell,” says Dr. Advani.

Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age but is often diagnosed in childhood. Parents who are suddenly thrust into the scary world of chronic disease take control of their children’s treatment. But when these kids become legal-age adults, they transition into adult health care where they need to make their own decisions. The problem is that they are treated much the same as older people. Eighteen or 81, the care is the same. 

St. Michael’s clinic is bridging the gap by helping young people graduate out from under the care of their parents and pediatric specialists and into a program where they become empowered to manage their own health.  

“Transition is a challenging time and it’s associated with an increased risk of short-term problems like low and high blood sugars that can send you to hospital,” says Dr. Advani.  “Our clinic addresses sugar control but it also deals with questions around moving away from home, money worries, alcohol and cannabis use, and safe sex.”

Dr. Advani and his colleague Dr. Janet Parsons recognized that the usual means of education wouldn’t cut it. So they came up with a modern-day version of handouts to reach their young patients: YouTube videos.

“I think about my own teenagers and how if they want to know something they go and look it up on YouTube,” Dr. Advani says.

Commercial real-estate heavyweight Cadillac Fairview wanted to help young adults manage their health. Dr. Advani’s team launched DiaBiteSize, a series of short, animated, educational videos available for free on YouTube, and with a generous gift of $250,000 from Cadillac Fairview they’re expanding their program. The videos can be accessed wherever the patient feels most comfortable and the first one has garnered more than 35,000 views, along with a commendation from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

"Cadillac Fairview is committed to supporting young people so they can reach their full potential and become agents of change in their community. We're proud to support St. Michael's DiaBiteSize project as it empowers young people with the knowledge and tools to manage their own health condition, as well as learn from each other," said Wayne Barwise, Executive Vice President of Development, Cadillac Fairview, and Board member of Unity Health Toronto.  

On a very cold day, in a utilitarian little boardroom, there is no escaping the warm beam of pride Dr. Advani feels when he’s asked about his patients. “Trying to help people live life to the fullest while managing a chronic medical condition is probably what I enjoy most about it.”   

To step inside Dr.Advani’s lab, click here.

2019 Cadillac Fairview Run/Walk 

The 15th annual Cadillac Fairview 5K Run/Walk will be held on Sunday, April 28, 2019. Just like in previous years, Cadillac Fairview will support the communities they do business in by inviting their partners, tenants, consumers, employees and their families to walk or run to raise money for some very worthy organizations. St. Michael’s Hospital is honoured to be chosen alongside SickKids Foundation and POGO (Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario) to be a recipient of this generous fundraising. To find out how you can participate, visit: cadillacfairviewrun.ca

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