A group of people stand together for a photo. In front of them is a table with papers and pamphlets on it.

Prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes are a growing issue in Canada and around the world.

Dr. Lorraine Lipscombe, director of the Novo Nordisk Network for Healthy Populations, shared some sobering facts with the audience who had gathered at the Polytainers Atrium in the Barrett Centre for Technology Innovation for the Health Innovation Challenge Celebration Event on March 5.

Dr. Lipscombe said, in 2022, 3.7 million Canadians had been diagnosed with diabetes, which was almost 10 per cent of the population. When including those with prediabetes and undiagnosed diabetes, that number jumps to an estimated 12 million Canadians, which is roughly 30 per cent of the country’s population.

“These numbers are serious, alarming and continue to rise,” added Vanita Varma, director, Centre for Innovation in Health and Wellness (CIHW).  

A person addresses an audience while speaking into a microphone.

To help address this issue, the focus for the CIHW’s Health Innovation Challenge this year was on finding innovative ways to engage and educate youth about prediabetes/Type 2 diabetes. Varma said the uniqueness of this challenge was the coming together of 28 students in eight teams from 16 different academic programs across six different faculties at Humber.  

Dr. Lipscombe said, globally, there’s been an increase in the prevalence of diabetes in those aged 20 to 39, telling the audience, “We are seeing more young people being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.”

A person addresses an audience while speaking into a microphone.

Lipscombe provided the event’s keynote address while there was a panel discussion with experts, who also served as judges. They included Dr. Baiju Shah with Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Damilola Iduye with Dalhousie University, Ghazal Fazli with the University of Toronto, Natasha Frank, a professor with Humber's Faculty of Health Sciences & Wellness and Ruth Marland with the City of Mississauga.

This event highlighted the winning team’s pitches, which were innovative strategies designed to influence youth’s health behaviours around nutrition, lifestyle and understanding the risk of developing prediabetes/Type 2 diabetes. The top three teams were recognized and awarded prizes and all students received a certificate of participation as Humber Health Innovators.  

Finishing in first place was Youth vs. Diabetes from the team of Pooja Mathur, Arina Volkova and Sarthak Arora. Their pitch was a dynamic platform blending real-time narratives with actionable support based in community development and building awareness among youth. It showcases individuals’ triumphs and challenges to inspire and educate others. Central to the platform is the Mentor-Mentee program fostering meaningful connections and support. It also includes daily challenges to promote healthy habits and customized recipes for enjoyable and health-conscious meals.

All three members of the winning team said they had family members who had been diagnosed with diabetes, which was one of the reasons they wanted to get involved with the challenge. It also allowed them to learn more about the disease while connecting with peers in different programs and developing communication and business skills.

Finishing in second was the team of  Maria Kusakina, Joe Nicola, Leung Chun Wing and Johnattan Ramcharran. Their pitch, SugarStrike, was a gaming app for learning and engaging with elements such as rewards, quizzes and leaderboards.

Finishing in third was the team of Diya Diya, Fung Shan Lam and Anastasia Svechkarev. Their pitch, Diabetes Escape, was an Escape Room concept themed around Type 2 diabetes.

The event was well-attended by over 100 people including students, staff and faculty and demonstrated the power of inter-disciplinary and cross-faculty work in finding innovative solutions to a chronic disease that is influencing the lives of many Canadians.