News & Events
Turning Over a New Leaf in Heart Disease Prevention
Origami – the traditional Japanese art of paper folding – could help get the role of engineering in health care across to schoolchildren. The principles of Origami are increasingly being used in innovative microscale engineering systems and encompass applications such as drug delivery and diagnostics. The engineers within the Nanotechnology and Integrated BioEngineering Centre (NIBEC) also had their sights on something a bit bigger and teamed up with researchers from Nottingham Trent University to see if Origami could be used as a means of highlighting the role of Enginnering in healthcare whilst also promoting a healthy heart message.
The research team, led by Professor James Davis from Ulster and Dr Maria Karanika-Murray, NTU, devised a series of engineering puzzles based on origami to get across the message about how lifestyle factors can influence the chances of developing heart disease in later life.
The Heart Research UK (HRUK) funded project to develop and evaluate educational materials about heart disease for younger generations, found that the children enjoyed and engaged with the origami models and that their teachers found the resources user-friendly and easy to administer.
Professor Davis said that although educational literature on the dangers of heart disease is widely available, it is unlikely to arouse more than casual inspection.
“Unfortunately, even the most attractive information leaflet can be binned without so much as a second glance. We wanted to come up with something that would capture the curiosity of the pupils and engage their attention long enough for a healthy heart message to be absorbed.”
Professor Davis said the origami models could be easily incorporated into a normal classroom activity at almost zero cost to the school.
“The trophy status of the origami models was an added bonus as the children took them home and this helped stimulate discussion with their parents and other family members.”
Professor Davis added: “Most people associate engineering with heavy industry but we have taken a much lighter approach here. Origami is something to capture not only the attention of the pupils but also of their parents. Hopefully, by associating origami with the healthy heart facts we can provide a hook that aids memory recall in later life and ultimately change attitudes.”
The research team found that health education is more likely to succeed when the message is communicated in an engaging way to match the needs and understanding of the target audience.
Dr Karanika-Murray said: “The materials developed were designed specifically to promote healthy heart awareness among primary and secondary school children. Not only did children enjoy and become more engaged with the materials than in a standard leaflet, but they also remembered more information. The earlier this information is put across to children, the healthier they are likely to be as adults.
“Because our health is often down to life-long habits, it is important to ‘get them young’. If we manage to implant in children the value of keeping our hearts healthy, then it is almost certain that they will keep healthy in their adult lives, and also pass these values to their own children.
“Qualitative evaluation of the materials showed that the children enjoyed and engaged with the origami models and that their teachers found the resources user-friendly and easy to administer. “This has important implications for health education in school settings but the approach could also be applied to non-school settings."
In addition to the origami puzzles, the team also developed electronic teaching resources to help communicate information on healthy hearts, heart disease and its prevention more effectively to children. These include video assembly instructions to accompany the puzzles; a quiz on healthy hearts for primary and secondary school children and guidelines for teachers for administering the materials. The teaching resources will be accessible through the Heart Research UK website.
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