The VIAL Project
LeeAnn is one of the most creative and geniune people I know. She is the creator of several projects around the diabetes community, Diabetes Art Day and the World Diabetes Day Post Card Exchange. LeeAnn is working on her doctoral degree; she needs help and input from the T1D community with her new project. I’m excited about the VIAL Project. LeeAnn, thank you for taking time to answer a few questions for DSMA.
DSMA: What does is the acronym for the VIAL project?
LeeAnn: Voice – Insulin – Art – Life
Voice: It’s a social media site, and connecting with others through posting
and commenting will be important to the user experience. Also, people with
food and body issues can have difficulty expressing their feelings, so the
one of the goals of the site is to encourage them to use their voice and be
heard by posting, commenting and sharing their creative work.
Insulin: Despite our best efforts, BG’s deviate, so insulin can be a source
of frustration and risk, even though it is simultaneously lifesaving.
Additionally, there are people with type 1 who omit or under-dose their
insulin to affect weight, and some people have extreme anxiety about taking
insulin because they fear gaining weight.
Art: The website promotes making and sharing creative work online. People
can use any of the expressive art forms they enjoy, but are encouraged to
experiment with unfamiliar art forms too. This is a judgment-free zone,
reflecting my core belief that all creative expression is beautiful because
it reflects the artist’s feeling and experience. People with diabetes tend
to be overly self-critical, as do people with food and body issues. This is
an opportunity to let go of that inner critic, and practice self-acceptance.
Life: Food and body issues have a way of keeping people from reaching their
fullest potential. I hope users of the site will find some benefit from
interacting with others and using creative expression, and in turn, they
will take steps towards becoming the people they want to be, living the
lives they most want to live.
DSMA: What is the inspiration (purpose) behind the VIAL Project?
LeeAnn: The inspiration came from my professional work as an art therapist, my
diabetes advocacy work, and my personal history with diabetes.
Professionally, I facilitate healing and growth in my clients by guiding
them to express feelings and explore experiences through art-making and
discussion. As a diabetes advocate, I have experienced and witnessed how
social media empowers and brings people together through Diabetes Art Day
and the World Diabetes Day Postcard Exchange, well-received projects I
Personally, I have had type 1 since 1978, and during my teens, 20′s, and
into my early 30′s, I had food and body image problems. My issues were
severe, but I have learned that people with type 1 experience a wide range
of food and body problems, from mild to severe. It seems that these
problems are not being adequately addressed, and people are not receiving
the support they need. Now that I am working on my doctorate, I want to
combine art-making and social media for people with diabetes and food and
body issues because these can seriously compromise emotional and physical
health. I want to see if they find benefit in creative expression and
DSMA: What is the mission and vision of the project?
LeeAnn: It is a doctoral research project that I am conducting. In this early
stage, the mission is to understand the experience of people with type 1
diabetes and food and body issues, how they experience making and sharing
creative expression, and how they experience engaging in social networking
on a site specifically for people with type 1 and food and body issues. I
would like to know if they find value in using the site, doing and sharing
creative projects, interacting with others who have similar issues, viewing
and commenting on others’ creative work.
The larger vision is identifying if this is an effective way to reach and
engage people, and if so, what more can we learn, and how can we apply that
to help people? Can a site like this draw users, will they participate, is
there growth potential? Can a site like this be a useful tool in helping
users resolve food and body issues? Are people who need professional
treatment, more likely to seek that out after using the site? My vision is
to develop a valuable resource that promotes creative expression for people
who are struggling. I think creative expression offers a broader frontier
for improving the lives of individuals and building a stronger, more dynamic
What type of information do you hope to receive? Who will you share the
Very generally speaking, I am interested in whether or not people find the
site valuable, and how it is valuable, but outside of that, I am open to
discovery. Due to my qualitative research design, I do not want to get so
focused on finding something specific that I lose sight of unexpected
As far as what I will do with the results, assuming they are favorable in
some way, I will build on that to develop my dissertation research, which
will be a longer, more involved project. When the pilot study is complete,
depending on the results, I might try to publish the findings, but I will
not make a decision about that until I am farther along in the process. If
I use the VIAL website as a platform for conducting my dissertation
research, it is likely I will want to publish and present the findings.
DSMA: How can people participate or get involved?
LeeAnn: It is important to know that the project timeline is tight. I will collect
data until late spring. Building an active, viable, dynamic social network
takes time, but because I have a data collection deadline, it is imperative
that I fast track things, recruit users, and promote participation.
People can participate by registering as a user if they have type 1
diabetes, they are at least 13 years old, and they identify as having some
kind of food or body concerns. Registration requires completing a
questionnaire about diabetes and food and body issues. Once registered,
complete the user profile, look through the community, and start
participating. There are discussions called “Creative Directives,” which
are essentially ideas for creative projects. Many of the project themes are
designed so people can respond using any art form. There is also a
discussion called, “Random Acts of Art,” that is more open-ended.
I encourage all users to carefully review the Terms of Service, which
include the Informed Consent This covers the aspects of the project that
are research-related, including confidentiality, how user-submitted work
will be used, etc. By accepting the Terms of Service, users are also
agreeing to the Informed Consent. All user-submitted content will be
collected as data, anonymized, and analyzed for themes to learn about user
experience. Without user-submitted content, my data will be limited, so the
key to the success of this phase of my research is participation.
For people who do not qualify because they do not have type 1 and food and
body issues, I hope they will help spread the word. They can like the
project on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/VIALProject), follow
@VIALProject on twitter (https://twitter.com/VIALProject), and share the
project with their online and offline diabetes contacts. The more the DOC
shares, the more likely they will reach the people who can most benefit from