Business Lessons from a Diabetes Camp

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and while the national discussion continues around health care costs, perhaps no other disease impacts a business’ bottom line today quite like diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are just-under 26 million people with diabetes in the U.S. and there are an additional 79 million people with pre-diabetes—a condition where cardiovascular deterioration starts. That’s 105 million people, or 1 out of every 3 Americans affected. It is a good bet that many companies have a similar percentage of employees and retirees with the disease. With health care costs rising, many companies are looking to establish Wellness Programs to keep their employees healthier. Where is a company to turn for a model of success? The answer may be a kid’s diabetes camp in central Massachusetts.

Specifically, the Barton Center for Diabetes Education Inc. in North Oxford, MA operates the two longest running camps in the world for kids with diabetes. For almost 80 years, the Clara Barton Camp and Camp Joslin have taught girls and boys with diabetes how to live healthy and productive lives with balance and discipline. While these lessons help young people manage blood glucose levels, they also set a foundation for healthy living and overall success.

Today, the camps summarize their education focus in a program they call “Healthy Stars.” This simple and powerful program emphasizes connected choices to balance for health and life. For good health the program emphasizes a focus on nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, and wellness support (people and products). For life balance the program emphasizes a focus on personal growth, community service, faith, school and work, and family and friends. In both cases, the Barton Center advocates the following principles:

  • Take Responsibility
  • Set a Goal
  • Measure, Measure, Measure
  • Help Others
  • Have Fun
  • Don’t Give Up

The track record of success at the camps run by The Barton Center can be measured in any number of ways. In one way, a study was conducted with 250 campers that proved that those who attended at least 5 years (10 weeks) of camp displayed significantly improved health measurements. In another way, successful campers consistently choose to return to the camp as counselors to share lessons learned with future generations. The Barton Center has created a culture where people excel.

As companies look for new ways of controlling costs and increasing employee health and engagement, perhaps they can look to The Barton Center as a model that has developed a proven program to teach us that balance and discipline lead to good health and life balance and overall success.