By Grace Anne Foca
Individuals, particularly those diagnosed with chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, want control and to feel “heard,” especially if it is clear that the doctors and dietitians do not have the time to customize dietary regimens to fit their individual needs.
When medical professionals diagnose patients with type 2 diabetes, they typically recommend websites, mobile applications, and information sources that provide nutrition plans with broad food categories, rather than a list of specific brands that an individual can consume to remain compliant with the recommended daily calories and food groups. Not every person diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is the same; therefore, directionally appropriate content, delivered with static information design and content through digital health services, are not sufficient tools to help people adapt to a life-changing health condition. Each person diagnosed with type 2 diabetes has different pre-existing health conditions and glucose levels that vary throughout the day, creating the need for customization—one that food and beverage companies are only just beginning to address. Individuals, particularly those diagnosed with chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, want control and to feel “heard,” especially if it is clear that the doctors and dietitians do not have the time to customize dietary regimens to fit their individual needs (Ball et al., 2016). The purpose of this investigation is to understand how the design of a customizable food shopping application can support dietary adherence in adults newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by assisting and integrating their food purchasing decisions related to food selection, food substitution, and food combination. I conducted discussions with medical professionals that confirmed the types of appropriate nutrition plans and the socioeconomic barriers to living with type 2 diabetes.
The project that emerged from my research suggests ideas for interface design approaches that could help people adapt long-term strategies for type 2 diabetes management with greater ease.
Based on the lists of doctor-recommended mobile applications and websites, I conducted a comparative analysis that identifies gaps in food shopping services, both in-store and online, for people with type 2 diabetes. The project that emerged from my research suggests ideas for interface design approaches that could help people adapt long-term strategies for type 2 diabetes management with greater ease. Rather than follow a “one-size-fits-all” nutrition plan, this project would provide enhanced knowledge of appropriate and desirable food choices. With more specific and applicable knowledge at a patient’s fingertips, it is likely that greater dietary compliance will result with fewer daily swings in blood glucose levels. Ultimately, the result could be a longer and greater quality of life for those with type 2 diabetes. The food shopping application, named TYPE2U, focuses on three phases during the first few weeks of a newly-diagnosed person living with type 2 diabetes. These phases include: 1) making food choices for the first time since the diagnosis; 2) making lifestyle adjustments according to blood glucose level testing; and 3) making mistakes that lead to meal planning as a method of increasing control over food choices.
Receiving Initial Diagnosis & Making Lifestyle Adjustments
The user, Sam, is going on her first food shopping trip since her diagnosis, and she uses TYPE2U to create a customized food shopping list that adjusts based on her lifestyle choices, current location, and blood glucose levels. Sam is also receiving blood glucose level updates on her smartwatch that TYPE2U uses to adjust the food recommendations on the shopping lists TYPE2U generates for Sam. She receives notifications throughout the day, informing her of high and/or low blood glucose levels, following up with questions about her food choices, and then giving her advice for how to behave in the future.
Making Mistakes & Taking Control
Sam makes mistakes with her food choices this week, she just could not resist having some junk food. TYPE2U shows her how her food choice mistakes led to irregular blood glucose levels in her weekly progress report, which displays a data visualization available on smartwatch and smartphone. The application wants to help Sam get back on track and prompts Sam to confirm if she would like to activate the meal planning feature of TYPE2U. Meals suggested to Sam are part of a large database that collects data from Sam’s social media and search engine activity.
Ball, L., R. Davmor, M. Leveritt, B. Desbrow, C. Ehrlich, and W. Chaboyer (2016). “The Nutrition Care Needs of Patients Newly Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes: Informing Dietetic Practice,” Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 29, no. 4, pages 487–94, August.