New Emoji Illustrate Life with Diabetes

In the present world of smartphone-everything, most of us know and adore Emoji, right? That is those small “emoticons” or colorful little icons which reflect emotions, food, vacations, or just about anything about mobile telephones and social websites nowadays.

And if you have diabetes, then you will likely be (smiley face) to hear about a new program that Diabetes Emoticonsoffers Emoji custom-made for diabetes, to help illustrate what it feels like when we are High, Low, frustrated, need to take a glucose test, and much more.  

Developed by a group of pupils dubbed “Michigan Hackers” in the University of Michigan established in Ann Arbor, the Diabeticons program has been two years in the making and is now ready for release in a couple of days on the Apple and Google Play shops.

I watched this up and close and personal at the recent MakeHealth occasion, held Oct. 25-26 about the Michigan campus, when the program developers gave a prototype demo.

The backstory on this diabetes emoticons program came to be is pretty awesome, we heard, as it stems from two youthful Michigan sisters that were unable to “their game up” in managing type 1 diabetes and better convey the way they felt about living with this illness.

T1D Sisters’ Thought to ‘Talk Diabetes’

Meet the Ohmer family, that are behind this program’s development from the start. You will recognize D-Mom Amy Ohmer from her blog called Naturally Sweet Sisters. However, you might not have fulfilled the rest of her family, including Dad Todd, 14-year-old Reece (dx’d at age 9) and 12-year-old Olivia (dx’d at 3).


It was the girls’ collective expertise attempting to discuss how they felt about diabetes management with parents and doctors that led to this program development.

Here’s how D-Mom Amy tells the story

“During 2013, both daughters decided they needed to enhance a few areas of their care. They had just finished a quarterly endocrinology trip and while it had gone well, it was difficult. Reece had grown in the following transition of adolescent diabetes care and throughout the appointment, she found herself being asked direct questions from her physician.  

“Besides feeling tongue-tied, there were also a few tears in feeling like she were under the spotlight. As both girls attend each and every appointment together, there were also a couple of sympathy tears from her sister and an outrage at why things are the way they are when it comes to T1D and kids.

“As their mom, I often am unsure of what to say to help soften their feelings and reassure them. To give myself a few additional moments to think about the right relaxation, I asked them what they could do to make it simpler for other kids who unexpectedly find themselves in precisely the same position. My oldest daughter promptly looked up and said she would rather be well prepared and have answers ready to proceed. She explained that a part of why she was uncomfortable was that she did not have sufficient time to prepare for the trip.    

“Immediately, both girls drafted a document of questions and corresponding clean spaces. The idea was simple: give kids time prior to the three-month appointment to prepare an idea of what is truly happening with them. My daughters were insistent that (the prep) needed to include not only challenges, but accomplishments. As our oldest explained, sometimes explaining accomplishments was more difficult in T1D maintenance than talking struggles.

“That moment created a spark. We chose to make a set of prepared questions and apply it into the practice. The questions were well-received and in a month or two, were placed on the hospital’s site. While the girls were excited to see that happen, they felt like more could be carried out. Another matter with communication to teachers, parents and friends had been looming. Both girls were tired of explaining, over and over, of what they needed to do for their T1D care.

“That brought forth the idea to make an program for diabetes emoticons. The endocrinology unit loved it! However, the employees that enabled their Teen Questionnaire Form to be added into the hospital site wasn’t familiar with app creation. Rather than allowing the idea wither, the staff mentioned that the girls share with Dr. Joyce Lee (University of Michigan mHealth researcher and activist.)

“Dr. Lee was working on her first #MakeHealth innovation event and was motivated by the Makers Movement, where real-life ‘experts’ are able to look simple, yet powerful improvements for themselves and others. Dr. Lee asked the girls to draft their first round of emoticons. She subsequently assembled a group of students to start thinking about the programming aspects.

“For the first (2014) #MakeHealth, the girls and Dr. Lee created an Emoticon booth. While the program creation has been in its infancy, Dr. Lee mocked up emoji decals to show how an program would do the job. She offered sterile stickers so other kids and adults could produce their own emoticons.

Ohmer girls

“Then, the girls and Dr. Lee worked on different draft versions. Additionally, I encouraged Dr. Lee tohe spring 2015 JDRF TypeOneNation Summit to talk to 130 teens about catching their ideas for diabetes emoticons.   (Watch our DiabetesMine coverage on such JDRF occasion in May 2015.)

“While we weren’t certain what the teens would develop with, happily, most all of those emoticons were universal — from a bathroom (need to use the restroom) to carbohydrates for snacks (pizza and donuts rated most important).

“Having a few more updates, the program was close to being launched.

“In the recent 2015 #MakeHealth occasion, Reece and Olivia talked in their layout and why it was important. Overwhelmingly, they emphasized it’s very important to tackle the requirement to eliminate weight loss, even from kids. They also explained they found strength and hope in having the ability to produce and implement their ideas.

“While diabetes can be difficult, they realize they can make it somewhat better in keeping our family motto, ‘Kids First, Diabetes Second.'”  

Hacking Healthcare and Diabetes

As it happens, the number of pupils under Dr. Lee in U-M is what blossomed into the organization called Michigan Hackers, who plan to continue working on DIY jobs.

So cool to find out how this all came from two teenagers simply wanting to better convey how they felt about their D-management!

In the MakeHealth occasion in October, I had a blast chatting with two Michigan Hackers members engaged in the program development: Jawad Nasser and Omkar Moghe, equally U-M pupils that are not living with diabetes themselves but are enthusiastic about helping kids, teenagers and adults find DIY (do-it-yourself) solutions to making D-life better.

Michigan Hackers

They were simply polishing off their job in late October, and told me that they planned to get it into iTunes and Google Play shops for downloading as soon as possible. Yes, the program will be free!

Emoticons for diabetes

One of those questions I asked them was whether an individual could text or discuss multiple emoticons at a moment? For instance, if my BG is reduced and I know it was because of earlier exercise, perhaps I could share the set of Running Shoes, a Hypo Sad Face, and a Juicebox to signal which I have handled my exercise-caused low. They loved this thought! Unfortunately this operation will not be available in the first version, but they guaranteed to research it for the future.

As banal as the idea of some tiny icons might appear, I really think it could be a great tool not just for kids and teenagers, but for adults like me too. Consider it: I use Nightscout and xDrip technology to talk about my real-time CGM information with my spouse, and we often exchange D-related text messages simply to sum up how I’m doing. Rather than writing out words, I could visit us exchanging these emoticons, to quickly allow her which I’m OK and have medicated, etc..

It really is beyond cool to see so many people of all ages producing DIY life hacks and new tools and technologies to help them manage their diabetes, and other problems.

In the D-world, the #WeAreNotWaiting motion has led the charge. We love to see how it’s converging together with the larger #MakeHealth initiative into so many different sections of health care hacking!

Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For additional information click here.


This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn’t stick to Healthline’s editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline’s venture with Diabetes Mine, please click here.

Written by on Nov  24,  2017  

Written by on Nov  12,  2017  

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