Search Close Search
Search Close Search
Page Menu

A Study by Dr. Amy Darukhanavala Compared Blood Sugar Control and Treatment Satisfaction Between Diabetes Camp vs. Home

Date Posted: Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Amy Darukhanavala, MD, a pediatric diabetes physician at UMass Memorial’s Children’s Medical Center, led a study comparing the success of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) between diabetes summer camp and while at home prior to camp.  She examined blood sugar data as well as quality of life, based on how the children felt about their diabetes in both settings.
Dr. Daru (as she’s known to her patients) spent the past three summers as one of the Medical Directors at the Barton Center camps in Central Massachusetts for children living with diabetes.  She split her weeks between the Clara Barton Camp for girls in North Oxford, MA, and Camp Joslin for boys in Charlton, MA.

While the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancelation of camp during the summer of 2020, Dr. Darukhanavala presented her findings during the American Diabetes Association’s annual Scientific Sessions, which was held virtually due to coronavirus.  

“Studies of this nature were lacking,” said Dr. Darukhanavala. “We were interested in comparing CGM success by reviewing data from the week before camp, as well as for a week during camp.  But also, by asking the kids how they were feeling during both situations.”

Previous studies have shown an association with camp attendance and improvements in A1c, as well as with quality of life.  However, few studies have examined the differences between glucose control at home compared with camp. 


Logistics of the Study 

All participants in the study, ages 6 to 17, received new Dexcom G6 CGMs and a journal, to collect both quantitative and qualitative data.  A week prior to leaving for camp, the families received a new CGM to wear at home leading up to camp.  “Some of these young people had never used a CGM before,” added Dr. Darukhanavala.

During that week while still at home, the children were asked to write in their journal to document and explain any major events they experienced, such as extreme hypoglycemia, ketones or diabetic ketoacidosis (D.K.A.).

When they arrived at camp, the participants completed a questionnaire about how they felt about their diabetes and their self-management during the past week while at home.  They also received another new Dexcom G6 sensor, to be worn for a week while attending camp.  At the end of camp week, they filled out that same questionnaire once again, to compare how they felt after the weeks at home and at camp

Resulting Data: Home Week vs. Diabetes Camp

The resulting data showed that diabetes camp was associated with significant blood sugar improvements in terms of time in range, compared to home care.  Campers also used less insulin and indicated feeling better about their diabetes management while attending camp.  This suggests medical diabetes camps are excellent resources to promote diabetes education, provide psychosocial support, and encourage potential better long-term care for children living with Type 1 diabetes.

“I think the biggest reason is that their activity level is higher at camp than it is at home,” said Dr. Darukhanavala. “They’re moving around and burning glucose all day, so we would expect their time in range to be significantly higher.”

Camp also provides more structure, with designated meal and snack times, as well as more frequent blood sugar checks.

“The kids don’t have access to food all day like they do at home,” she added. “Blood sugars are also checked overnight at camp. More frequent checks allow campers and staff to address and treat issues immediately, probably faster than most people do at home.”  She also pointed out how medical diabetes camps provide a group mentality, where everyone looks out for each other.  

Many of the young UMass Memorial patients who have been recognized in recent years on our Diabetes Center of Excellence Wall of Honor have mentioned diabetes camp as an important part of their lives.  Sophie Lennon attended Clara Barton Camp for five years, and also spent one summer as a counselor-in-training (CIT).  “At first I wasn’t sure if I’d like camp…but it’s the best thing I ever did.”  Now as a young adult, Sophie still keeps in touch with her “camp community.”

Sophie Lennon Twitter.jpg

Virtual Diabetes Camps 

While summer camp was not possible for 2020, many former campers and seasonal staff members engaged with campers online through the Barton Center for Diabetes Education’s social media platforms.

Lynn Butler, executive director of The Barton Center for Diabetes Education, explained “the safety of our campers and staff was our number one concern, and there were too many unknown factors to risk holding camp this summer.”

They offered virtual arts and crafts projects, dance instruction, and camp song sing-a-longs.  Each camper received a complimentary care package with everything they needed for the activities.

“Not opening was a difficult decision, because our campers benefit greatly from our summer programs, filled with other children living with diabetes,” added Butler.  “That camaraderie lasts a lifeline for these kids.  Being with others who share the same frustrations not only makes them feel better emotionally, but it’s also a great reminder that others feel that struggle,” added Butler.

The American Diabetes Association also offered a nationwide virtual camp program in 2020.  Activities included online campfires, games, and friendly competitions, by joining a virtual “cabin” led by counselors. 

Video and Resources for Families of Children Living with with Diabetes

The UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence offers a variety of information and resources for children and families affected by diabetes. View our educational videos and learn more at