A new 3D-printed model is helping educate people with diabetes.

Marryllyn Donaldson, WellSouth’s Long Term Conditions Community Nurse, approached Otago Polytechnic’s Product Design Lecturer, Andrew Wallace, with a problem. She teaches people about Type 2 Diabetes and had made a cardboard model using tape, glue and red paint to illustrate what insulin does and how it helps sugar get into cells. “But my cardboard model had seen better days, I really needed something more permanent!” Marryllyn says.

Using Marryllyn’s model as a base, Andrew designed a new version – 3D printing a blood vessel and cell, as well as the sugar and ‘trapdoor’ that illustrates insulin allowing sugar into the cell. “I could see how product design would add real value both in education and in health” he says.

Marryllyn’s job is to show people how they can self-manage long term conditions by changing their behaviour. But explaining how insulin works has always been difficult. “We’ve tried pamphlets, videos and workshops, but many people just don’t understand until they get this in their hands and can actually visualise how insulin works. It works for all ages, all ethnicities and all cultures.” 

Marryllyn and Andrew are now working on the next model, for early kidney disease. Currently Marryllyn uses measuring cups and beads to illustrate protein in the kidney. Andrew is keen to involve his students studying for a degree in product design. Marryllyn’s vision is to have a case filled with various models that educate and illustrate diabetes, asthma, heart failure and early kidney disease.

June 2017