Interactive stuffed animal helps young T1D patients develop good self-care habits
Our recent Diabetes Innovation Challenge, the first-ever, open, worldwide challenge to identify and accelerate transformational advancements in diabetes research and care, awarded Sproutel the People’s Choice award. This is the third article in our three-part series of winner profiles.
Families, caregivers and clinicians guiding children with type 1 diabetes (T1D) have the ongoing challenge of providing comfort and education aligned with a child’s own development timeline. Enter Jerry the Bear, developed by Sproutel of Providence, RI. This teddy bear training tool offers a platform for interactive health education. Children care for Jerry by feeding him foods, administering insulin, and monitoring his blood glucose levels. As children keep Jerry healthy, they unlock a modular diabetes curriculum – a series of 21 animated storybooks depicting Jerry training for the All Star Games. We interviewed Aaron Horowitz, Co-founder and CEO from Sproutel.
Glu: What motivates/inspires the individuals in your organization?
Aaron: Everyone in Sproutel is incredibly passionate about improving the lives of children dealing with medical challenges. One big driver for us is how we might be able to help children build habits at an early age that set them up for healthy and happy lives. We think Frederick Douglass said it best: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men (and women).”
Glu: What has been the greatest challenge to move to the next stage?
Aaron: To date, one of our largest challenges has been how we distribute Jerry the Bear to families. We currently run a store on our website where families can purchase a bear. With this strategy we are able to sell bears to 4% of children newly diagnosed, however still struggle with how to reach broader audiences. We’ve just partnered with a few distributors both in the US and Canada and are excited by the potential of starting to tap into existing distribution networks.
Glu: How will your organization use the funding and services provided by the award?
Aaron: It was fantastic to participate in the Diabetes Innovation Awards; we’re very inspired by all of the technology being created for people with type 1 diabetes. This experience has helped us make some great connections in the diabetes community, and we look forward to seeing how they unfold.
Glu: Given your product is already in the market, what area(s) will you focus on next?
Aaron: We’re thrilled that over 3,500 kids with type 1 diabetes will receive a bear this year. Our company is deeply passionate about improving kids’ health and we’re hard at work creating new products to meet the needs of children living with chronic illness. Most notably we’re currently developing toys for children with cancer as well as children with, or at risk of, obesity.
Glu: Any other interesting background information (perhaps non-scientific) about your team?
Aaron: Our team is pretty eclectic…after all we build robotic teddy bears! We all have some pretty wild hobbies. What does that mean exactly… well:
- Hannah A.K.A. Mama Bear – master of all foods delicious and wanderer of beautiful lands.
- Aaron A.K.A. Papa Bear – winter surfer and maker of all things sculptural.
- Joel A.K.A. Uncle Grandpa Bear – fly fisherman and explorer of faraway lands (not mutually exclusive).
- Brian A.K.A. Adventurous Uncle Bear – downhill mountain unicyclist and acro-yoga extraordinaire.