Re-envisaging co-design to explore community attitudes to CPAP therapy masks


Helen Cunningham's PhD project explores re-envisaging a co-design approach to investigate community attitudes to the design of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy masks for treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). Following analysis of a typical CPAP therapy mask product, cultural and design probes were created and exhibited in community markets. Community interactions and responses were considered in social construction terms to explore the operation of power and subjectivity in the design of a medical device used in the home.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is characterised by recurring episodes of upper airway obstruction or apnoea during sleep, is a highly prevalent sleep disorder globally and associated with high costs to society if untreated (McNicholas & Bonsignore, 2007, p. 156). The current clinical standard treatment is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) delivered to the nose and/or mouth through a breathing mask interface (McNicholas & Bonsignore, 2007). Within a clinical discourse, CPAP is extremely effectiv eat eliminating apnoeas during use and results in significant reduction in patient morbidity and mortality (Shapiro & Shapiro, 2010). However, the social embodiment of treatment in terms of hours of use per night and long term adherence to treatment remains problematic and has not significantly improved despite making many technical improvements to the treatment (Shapiro & Shapiro, 2010). In this study, Helen is working from the theoretical perspective that bodies, technologies and their meanings are always socially and culturally located.

Helen's research considers using a philosophically driven approach to design research with the objectives of:
a. Understanding and mapping the current discourses within which face masks for sleep apnoea are constructed to build a contextual basis for identifying alternative design possibilities and,
b. as a discussion and decision making tool for identifying and managing ongoing power interactions between the discourses involved in a design process.

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McNicholas, W. T., & Bonsignore, M. R. (2007). Sleep apnoea as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease: current evidence, basic mechanisms and research priorities. European Respiratory Journal, 29(1), 156-178. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00027406

Shapiro, G. K., & Shapiro, C. M. (2010). Factors that influence CPAP adherence: an overview. Sleep and Breathing, 14(4), 323-335. doi: 10.1007/s11325-010-0391-y

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