Victoria University of Wellington researchers are working
towards a new status quo-where teenagers aren't ashamed as they
manage their diabetes.
Research from Victoria's School of Design and Faculty of Health
is exploring how designers can better create medical technology
that responds to the needs of teenagers with type 1 diabetes.
Design PhD student Gillian McCarthy, with support from Associate
Professor Edgar Rodriguez from the School of Design and Dr Brian
Robinson from the Faculty of Health, looked at the experience of
teenagers managing diabetes and what the issues they faced in
relation to the medical technology and devices they use.
"For example, a blood glucose meter is a critical part of
managing diabetes, but many of the people we talked to found it
drew unwanted attention," says Ms McCarthy.
Ms McCarthy said they wanted to open a conversation with young
sufferers about their needs, and explore ways they could design
devices that aren't only medically effective, but can also be
integrated into their daily lives.
"Teenagers feeling comfortable managing type 1 diabetes in
social situations is important because it reduces pressure to delay
or skip blood glucose testing, and allows teenagers to keep
participating in activities. In short, it's likely to improve their
health," she said.
Brisbanite Tamara Mills wears a dummy prototype of
her earrings which she hopes will eliminate the need for diabetes
needles. -ABC NEWS: LEXY HAMILTON-SMITH
Interviews were conducted with females aged 13-24 with type 1
diabetes, which resulted in a list of user-requirements for
teenagers using medical devices to self-manage their therapy.
From these interviews, five design requirements were
constructed: help to comfortably disclose and explain type 1
diabetes when appropriate; minimise or eliminate feelings of stigma
or embarrassment while using medical technology; facilitate
spontaneity and participation in everyday activities; communicate
data and information to facilitate decision making; and facilitate
a daily self-management routine that fits with lifestyle.
The requirements were then used to inform design experiments
created by 28 research participants from Victoria's undergraduate
Industrial Design programme.
The students created several prototypes-including a phone case,
jewellery, bike attachment and watch, all of which responded to
user requirements of monitoring blood glucose.
"We're exploring the positive social impacts that medical
devices can have, as well as reducing the negative impacts," says
"If we make something beautiful-like a necklace-can it be
something people will want to have, rather than a device that they
are ashamed to use?
"The feedback we got from the teenagers was positive. We weren't
looking to create finished medical devices to go to market, but
wanted to promote discussion and show the importance of respecting
their psychosocial requirements."
The research was published this month in a special edition of
The Design Journal for the European Academy of Design's 'Design for
Next' conference in Rome where Gillian presented her research in
April this year.
"This research is a fantastic example of one of the big problems
we address in the Smart Interactions cluster-how to engage people
with their medical therapies," says Associate Professor
Smart Interactions team is a research cluster at
Victoria's School of Design that investigates how to provide better
healthcare and safety through smart interactions that better
reflect human needs and desires.
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