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Revolutionising Diabetes Care in New Zealand

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Dr Jake Campbell, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Canterbury, collaborated with Dr Lui Holder-Pearson, Francis Pooke, and Matt Payne during their doctoral studies in Mechanical Engineering to develop cost-effective insulin pump designs.

Individuals with type 1 diabetes predominantly utilise insulin pumps, and a self-funded pump can cost approximately US$10,000. Those with type 1 diabetes lacking access to a self-funded or Pharmacist-funded pump resort to multiple daily insulin injections to regulate their glucose levels.

Dr Campbell explains that their pump design aims to reduce costs significantly, with an estimated price of around US$2000, while providing the same advantages and outcomes as the pricier counterparts. This innovation presents an affordable alternative for individuals managing diabetes.

“Our objective is to ensure that everyone has fair access to top-notch diabetes treatment at an affordable cost, ultimately enhancing health results,” explained the team. Currently, only 16% of eligible individuals in New Zealand have access to an insulin pump, with approximately 3,300 being funded by Pharmac.

Dr Jake Campbell, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Canterbury (UC), alongside Dr Lui Holder-Pearson, Francis Pooke, and Matt Payne, developed more cost-effective insulin pump designs during their Mechanical Engineering PhDs at UC.

Diabetes presents a significant healthcare challenge in New Zealand, partially exacerbated by high obesity rates. Type 2 diabetes affects about 5% of the population, projected to rise to 7% by 2040.

Lower socio-economic groups bear the brunt of escalating healthcare expenses, resulting in poorer health outcomes due to limited access to cutting-edge diabetes management technology. The team aims to bridge this healthcare gap by providing affordable diabetes treatment options.

Their low-cost insulin pump, expected to cost around US$2,000, seeks to make advanced diabetes management more accessible. Only 16% of eligible individuals in New Zealand have access to insulin pumps, with about 3,300 funded by Pharmac.

The team also plans to launch data management software later this year to efficiently record patients’ diabetes data and information in a centralised system. This software will benefit individuals with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and healthcare providers.

Over 26,000 New Zealanders live with Type 1 diabetes, while 50,000 require insulin therapy. Globally, there are 97 million insulin-dependent individuals.

The team intends to file a patent for their low-cost insulin pump in the coming months. Demand for insulin pumps is rising internationally, paralleling the increasing prevalence of diabetes, resulting in a global insulin pump market worth over US$4.6 billion.

The team includes Dr Jennifer Hoi Ki Wong, a Lecturer in the UC School of Psychology specialising in barriers to technology adoption, and Dr Grace Walker, a UC PhD Psychology graduate and data scientist focusing on community engagement for the project, with a particular focus on rural and urban Māori communities. Engaging with these communities is essential as they are disproportionately affected by diabetes.

Improved access to technology has the potential to enhance the daily lives of these communities. Rural areas are a primary target because, in some cases, individuals with diabetes must travel up to two hours to see a doctor. This approach aligns with broader healthcare initiatives to reduce health disparities and improve overall well-being.


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