Tom Ainsworth, 2011
Working in the context of design for well being this design-led interdisciplinary project seeks to improve the health and well being of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Working closely with colleagues from Brighton and Sussex Medical School, this AHRC-funded research aims to develop designs, and a series of design criteria, for interactive handheld exercise devices that will assist patients and augment exercise throughout normal daily life.
Rheumatoid Arthritis effects almost 1% of the working age population. The loss of working time and subsequent cost to society and to the economy from 1999 to 2000 was 9.4m working days, representing £833m in lost production. One of the most significant challenges to the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is patient adherence to prescribed treatments. According to the World Health Organisation adherence to long-term therapy for chronic illnesses in developed countries averages 50%. In developing countries this percentage is even lower. This represents significant additional costs to treatments and the economy and is detrimental to the quality of life of patients with RA.
Exercise therapies support patients with RA by helping to maintain function and reduce pain and stiffness. This study aims to facilitate exercise in the three main hand functions identified as having the greatest impact on quality of life, these are the pinch grip, overall grip strength and hand dexterity. Devices are currently available that help maintain these functions. However, many patients struggle to adhere to treatment recommendations. This is reportedly due to fatigue, fear of injury, pain, and difficulty with fitting treatment time into daily life.
This project seeks to develop our understanding of ‘designable factors’ that contribute to patient adherence to exercise therapy, with particular interest in ‘active’ and ‘passive’ modes of engagement with exercise devices. The definition of ‘designable factors’ used within this study is not limited to the aesthetic, physical and functional parameters of objects; it is also inclusive of the psychological and social impact of these devices.