October 10, 2012 12:19 pm

‘Diabesties’ app targets college kids to keep their diabetes in check

TORONTO – Going off to college or university means taking responsibility for your health, and it can be especially tough for young adults who have diabetes. But a new app aims to make tracking the disease as social as Facebook messaging.

The app is called Diabesties, “like best friends with diabetes” says Paul Prescod, chief technology officer and founder of Ayogo, the social gaming company that created the app.

As most students know, the college environment isn’t exactly conducive to maintaining healthy living, and for someone with diabetes who needs to check their blood glucose level frequently and pay special attention to things like diet and exercise, it can bring dangerous complications.

“Even if you’re a model student, you’re staying up late, you’re sleeping in, you’re skipping meals and once you throw in parties… it becomes quite a challenge to have what is essentially another full time job-which is maintaining diabetes,” says Prescod.

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Prescod and his team developed the application with the College Diabetes Network (CDN), the organization that facilitates groups at college and universities for students with diabetes (now starting in high schools as well).

CDN program director Jo Treitman started a simple program called ‘Diabesties’ when she was in college, texting her blood sugar to two of her diabetic friends on campus. The idea grew from there, with more students sending instant messages encouraging friends to check their blood sugar, and flagging unusual highs and lows for each other.

“We built a technology that tracks their history, so they’re not just sending messages back and forth,” says Prescod.

He says it’s important for diabetics to keep track of how their blood sugar relates to meals and exercise, and that the app allows you to record this information.

The CDN emphasizes it’s important to have the camaraderie of someone who knows what you’re going through and who can help you stick to your plan.

“We call it reciprocal social obligation – so they’ll each kind of ‘owe’ each other help,” he said. “It’s a well-known technique similar to a workout buddy: the person that you agree to go to the gym with everyday, and you’re more likely to go if you know they’re dependant on you to motivate them.”

The app will be submitted on Friday to the Apple app store, and may take a few weeks to become available for download. It will be free to users, as it’s funded from third parties like insurance companies.

While Ayogo and the CDN developed the app with college and university students in mind, it could be used by anyone with Type I or II diabetes, and also used in a one-way manner by friends who want to “listen in” on a diabetic friend.

“It’s…designed for the instant-message generation, so it allows you to intersperse non-diabetes discussion with the glucose readings,” says Prescod. “It’s completely designed around that metaphor that they’re really comfortable with, almost like a Facebook wall, but relating information private to you and your diabetes.”

The College Diabetes Network (CDN) is a non-profit organization that helps students create groups on college and university campuses, and provides information relevant to young adult life with Type I diabetes.

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