Musician and superstar Nick Jonas was in Edmonton for his concert with Demi Lovato Friday, but that wasn’t the only thing on his agenda.
Jonas, his organization Beyond Type 1, the Canadian Diabetes Association and Sun Life Financial hosted a meet and greet with young people with diabetes.
He was on tour with his brothers at the time of his diagnosis.
“I remember thinking that it might be the end of that run and that my dreams would have to come to a pause,” he said. “Thankfully, it didn’t.”
Since learning how to manage the disease in his own life, while continuing to forge his own musical career, Jonas has made it his mission to educate and inspire others with Type 1 diabetes.
“Over the last nine, 10 years now, I’ve really been vocal about it and inform people that I’m able to live my best life while living with the disease and doing all the things I want to do.
“So, teaming with Sun Life and building these unique opportunities to meet with fans and speak with them in a really candid environment and just kind of lay it out has been really great.”
Paul Joliat with Sun Life Financial said seeing the look on kids’ faces when they met Jonas was pretty great.
“Nick has had Type 1 diabetes – which is an auto-immune disease – since he was 13,” Joliat, the company’s assistant vice president of philanthropy, said.
“Really what we’re trying to do is trying to inspire these children and have them understand they can live a great life and be all they want to be despite the fact they have diabetes.”
For the young people, Jonas isn’t just a celebrity; he’s also someone who can relate to what they’re going through, Joliat said.
“For them, talking to him about what pump he uses and what blood-glucose monitor he uses, and how he tests and what he does on the road… I think it’s just a calming notion, if you will, of ‘somebody else understands what I’m going through’ and that ‘I can live my best life and achieve my dreams with having Type 1 diabetes.'”
Sun Life Financial is also hoping to educate people on Type 2 diabetes and how people can prevent it.
“Type 2 is largely preventable through a healthy active lifestyle,” Joliat said. “Eating a proper diet and exercising are the two main things.”
The Canadian Diabetes Association states diabetes rates in Canada have almost doubled over the past decade and continue to rise.
“Unless action is taken now, one in three people will be living with diabetes or pre-diabetes by the end of this decade,” the association explains in its Tipping Point publication.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2014, 6.7 per cent of the Canadian population had diabetes.
A risk assessment tool has been posted online for people to evaluate their own likelihood of developing the disease.
“It is preventable to a certain degree,” Jonas said, “and if you’re aware of the signs, you can get proactive. There’s lots of ways to get informed and to do what you can to prevent something that I think just complicates life unnecessarily.”
Jonas and Lovato will wrap up their tour the third week of September.
“Touring with one of my best friends is the best thing in the world,” he said. “To get the chance to be on stage every night and see how far the fans have come, the audiences have grown, all that’s changed over the last couple of years since launching my solo venture – I’m having the time of my life.”
*EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally included a quote saying “90 per cent of Canadians have either pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes and 10 per cent have Type 1.” It was updated on Aug. 29 to include the one-in-three estimate by the Canadian Diabetes Association.