Using visual information and everyday objects to improve chronic disease management of people of color
With six of every ten American adults having a chronic disease , chronic conditions are the new major public health crisis in the United States . The majority of patients with chronic disease have more than one non-communicable chronic condition, including but not limited to diabetes, depression, obesity, hypertension, heart disease. Ninety percent of the 3.3 trillion health care costs in the United States is due to chronic diseases .
In some occasions, patients deal with a communicable disease as part of their comorbidity, being HIV one of them . The mix of communicable and non-communicable diseases in patients comorbidity has a negative impact on patients' care costs. For instance, the total cost of medical care is higher in HIV-infected patients with comorbidity .
Researchers know that information is needed to improve and save lives . Health providers commonly make use of educational materials to promote behavioral change. These materials usually take the form of pamphlets which contain visual information (text, diagrams, data visualizations, photographs, and illustrations) intended to educate the patient regarding their medical condition and persuade her to modify her lifestyle.
Evaluation of these has shown that providing patients with pamphlets and walking them through the content does not guarantee that patients will comprehend their condition, nor more importantly, make them feel motivated or confident to develop strategies for healthier living or make behavioral changes. This situation comprises both non-communicable and communicable diseases, such as diabetes and HIV, respectively [7,9, 12].
Information technology experts have addressed this situation by using computational technology [8,13]. Nevertheless, experts in health literacy have shown that this solution disadvantages those patients that are not tech-savvy or have low literacy skills in general, making these group of people experience a health inequity .
This research addresses this situation through the design of visual information-oriented objects that are seamlessly integrated into the everyday life of people being diagnosed with multiple communicable and non-communicable chronic conditions, (defined as comorbidity between multiple chronic conditions such as diabetes, depression, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, and depression, and HIV). Especially, in communities of color and stigmatized communities.
These everyday objects are intended to support and sustain self-care for the people of color with multiple chronic diseases. Without innovative approaches for health educations that can enhance behavioral change and self-care, the increasing number of chronic diseases will continue to increase the mortality of morbidity of Americans.
Through the creation of these objects, this research will enhance the long-term motivation to more effectively manage their physical and mental health conditions, which in turn will enhance their quality of life, social life, productivity, and life expectancy. This approach will also reduce the costs of chronic disease imposed on the US health care system.
This research aims to better understand the role of object and visual information design in supporting self-care, patient education, and enhancing their quality of life. The research will follow a research-through-design approach  through a multidisciplinary perspective, meaning that design will work as a mechanism to achieve such an understanding rather than creating a prescriptive solution for all diabetic patients.
The research-through-design approach will comprise the following phases:
1. A survey of research literature on the application of similar approaches for tailored health communication, wellness, and patients’ education;
2. A series of interviews and focus groups with patients with communicable and non-communicable chronic disease in Ann Arbor and Detroit area to elicit relevant information types and current personal strategies utilized in attempts to change to a healthier lifestyle, and the everyday challenges that hinder this attempt;
3. The production of a series of everyday 2D or 3D design objects containing visual-oriented information inspired by the insights gained from the previous activities;
4. The deployment of these objects in the patients’ everyday lives to capture how people utilized the objects and information to modify and sustain their self-care strategies.
This research aims to be multidisciplinary and not limited to health and design researchers. It invites experts in disciplines concerned with
- tailored communication,
- information literacy,
- data visualization,
- user experience,
- health behavior change,
- family medicine, and
- chronic disease management,
- communicable diseases,
- non-communicable diseases,
- diabetes, and
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