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Modelling health education

Media release – Otago Polytechnic

For immediate release, April 28, 2017

Modelling health education

Transforming a makeshift cardboard model into a professional 3D-printed product could revolutionise the way diabetes is explained in the Southern District.

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.

“I’m absolutely blown away with this partnership” says Marryllyn. “Andrew sees my vision, and has done the research and design for free, which means I can get this out to the community now.”

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 also teaches and upskills health-care professionals. The 3D-printed model, which is easily replicated, can now be sent around the region to help more people understand their condition.

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 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.


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