Designing for the prostate cancer population: an integrated exercise and social support system
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AbstractResearch has shown that exercise is beneficial in improving quality of life for cancer populations. Exercise equipment specifically designed for prostate cancer patients was identified as an area that should be investigated. Various research strategies including literature reviews, a market precedent search, key informant interviews, and user-centered design research were utilized to pinpoint the needs of prostate cancer patients. The literature review showed that although exercise is an effective therapeutic intervention, participants involved in clinical exercise trials also create relationships that develop into dynamic social support mechanisms. A market precedent search and key informant interviews with health professionals revealed the existence of many effective exercise equipment designs suitable for the prostate cancer patient. Additionally, despite the benefits of exercise, information regarding its importance does not always reach the prostate cancer patient. Health professionals also stated that the concept of active living is an effective strategy for incorporating exercise into cancer patients' daily regimens. User-centered design research consisting of a focus group interview, an empathy probe and participant observation was compared against the preliminary research methods to establish consistency. The outcome was that exercise activities are supported by the social structure of clinical exercise trials. The social interaction facilitates participant camaraderie, resulting in patterns of information flow and motivation. In addition, the structure of clinical trials provided the social support necessary to engage in physical activity. As a result, prostate cancer patients made improvements in their physical condition and were able to gauge levels of physical improvement during the clinical trials. The research drove the design objective and changed it from the design of a physical exercise device to the design of an interconnected system consisting of a pedometer and a website. Specifically, the pedometer provides the ability to track patterns of active living and is a programmable key that allows access to customized website content. The pedometer facilitates access to the website where users can share experience through social connections. A system designed to incorporate exercise and a social support component creates a synergy that opens avenues of communication. The resulting benefits include improved information flow, motivation and social support opportunities with the potential to enhance prostate cancer patient quality of life.
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