The Diabetes Association of TT (DATT) launched its youth advocacy branch on Saturday after 30 students of 20 secondary schools graduated from an internship programme.
The students learned the effects of diabetes, how to live with it, prevent it and more, and will have to teach other young people what they learned.
DATT president Andrew Dhanoo said the youth branch will give young people the opportunity to make society healthier. He said this launch could not have happened without help from insurance companies Tatil and Tatil Life, subsidiaries of the Ansa McAl Group.
"We've provided the interns with a comprehensive programme involving health promotion, research, clinical practice, communication and marketing over the last three or four months you've been with us."
Dhanoo said the interns have "blossomed" into health advocates to help make the country healthier. Some of these plans include an informational poster titled "Think before you snack" and a health school policy draft to promote healthy eating and regular exercise in schools.
The health school policy was presented by Dr Bernice Dyer-Regis along with two interns Chukwuma Ezenwaka and Rajveer Mohammed. Dyer-Regis said she conducted research on which secondary schools offer physical education past form three and from her studies, only one school did. She hopes the policy can be implemented to bring more awareness and prevent young people from being diagnosed with diabetes.
Ezenwaka and Mohammed offered the Ministry of Health's principal medical officer Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards and minister in the Education Ministry Lisa Morris-Julian, who were in the audience, recommendations that can be implemented including educating people on the risk factors and incorporating more physical activity in schools.
David Gobin, chairman of the youth advocacy branch, said they were given more than enough information on the disease and hands-on experience with the medical instruments used to measure glucose levels.
"I can proudly and confidentially say I made the right choice when I decided to be a part of this life-changing non-profit organisation."
The recent upper-sixth form student said though it was a serious and tiring learning experience, he and his team had their fun especially during the practicals.
Gobin joked that he became light-headed as he was asked to be the patient of the day
so the interns can get a proper glucose and blood-type reading.
Addressing the graduates, Abdool-Richards said in 2020 there were
1,275 deaths from diabetes and in 2021, it increased to 1,600. She said it continues to escalate, but DATT has been able to educate and inspire people into changing their ways and will continue with the help of the youth branch.
Morris-Julian said she wished there was a similar programme while she was growing up as it may have helped her 82-year-old grandmother, who died of diabetes, live longer.
"The fact that so many of you contributed and remained dedicated in a time of peril and fear tells me that our country is in good hands."