The Story

In Wisconsin, the Healthy Living with Diabetes (HLWD) program is a free six-week course that teaches diabetes management. However, although 21% of the Black population has diabetes in Wisconsin, only 3% of HLWD participants are Black. As a result, the Black population is severely underrepresented among HLWD participants.

The Challenge

From September to October 2021, my capstone team for my Masters of Science in Design + Innovation explored ways to help HLWD reach people in need of their services.

The problem to solve: How to increase participation among the black population for the HLWD diabetes management course.

The solution: A personalized experience at the time of diagnosis that creates a sense of inclusion for all potential participants.



1-1 interviews Analogous Research


Principles Opportunities


Prototypes Journey maps User feedback


Iterated Designs
Visual Mockups
Process Book


To get to know the people we were hoping to help, we conducted fourteen 1-1 interviews with facilitators of the HLWD workshops, participants of the program, and members of the broader diabetes community to understand the struggles and feelings that come along with diabetes.

*names changed for privacy

We also conducted analogous research to explore similar styles of learning in areas like recovery groups, school teaching, and fitness instruction.


After completing our research, we pulled out the main insights that were consistent across multiple participants and developed the corresponding principle for our team.

“I feel like I have failed”Provide a guiding hand through each individual’s personal journey with diabetes
“I feel like my needs are not being met.”Empower participants to advocate for their health goals and needs.
“I feel like this program isn’t for me.”Use empathy and human connection to make everyone feel seen and heard, regardless of race, age, or ability.
“I feel like my community makes me stronger.”Build a community around diabetes management.

These guiding insights and principles lead us to three opportunity areas to build solutions.

Homegrown Content, Tailored Success

Flexible and adaptable course content for each participant’s education and understanding

A Guiding Hand from Day One Diagnosis

From the moment of diagnosis, patients are given a support system to guide them through their health journey.

Growing Roots to Ground Connections

A structured way of staying connected to support and mentoring after HLWD courses.

After receiving feedback from our users and several more ideation exercises, we decided to move forward with A Guiding Hand from Day One Diagnosis. It was here, from Day One, that we could have the most direct and immediate impact on the lives of those with diabetes. To ensure that it fit our “guiding hand” principle, our solution needed to be: 


To start prototyping our solution, we went back through our interviews to understand the feelings that come up in the current diagnosis experience and what they wished they had gotten out of the experience.

The Solution

Backed by research and exploration, we built our prototype solution, the Diabetes Navigator, an experience that starts the relationship between HLWD and the individual at the moment of diagnosis.

Feedback and Iteration

With a prototype in hand, we went back to the user we spoke to during the discovery phase to get their feedback and ensure we were meeting their needs.

“It would have saved me a lot of heartache.”
– Potential Participant

“This would be something I’d be happy to hand out to people.”
– Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

“This is good because I could drop it and pick it up when I feel ready.”
– Past Participant and Current Facilitator

Not all of the feedback was positive and there were a few opportunities for improvement, so we made some changes to the designs to be more inclusive and useful for our users.


Our final task was to assess if our solution stayed true to our original opportunity to be a guiding hand from day one diagnosis. While much of the feedback in our prototype testing supported the validation of this idea, none was more strong than the feedback received from a past participant of HLWD who ignored her diabetes diagnosis for 10 years.

“If I had received this at the beginning, I wouldn’t have waited so long. Just knowing someone is out there and they know what I’m going through is enough.”

– HLWD Participant