Research into products for children and young people with arthritis has been funded by The Children's Hospital Charity

The Children’s Hospital Charity have funded research into three products to improve the independence of children and young people with arthritis.

Sheffield researcher Ursula Ankeny came up with the concept during her final year of university. She worked in collaboration with Occupational Therapist Catherine Dunbar and Dr Daniel Hawley from Sheffield Children’s.

The products have been created with the aim to improve children and young people’s independence and ongoing management of their arthritis. They were developed in a co-design process, where children and young people were able to contribute to the final product This led to the development of three prototypes that are now ready for testing by 10 children and young people.

The first of the prototypes is a device to help with joint pain that heats up and vibrates. Children and young people with arthritis can experience regular pain and this device is designed to distract the brain from this and make it more manageable day to day.

The second prototype is a physiotherapy tool that lights up when you have stretched to the right amount. Research has shown that making sure people engage with physiotherapy constantly can be difficult. This tool is designed to make the process more like a game and will hopefully lead to more consistent results for patients.

The third prototype is a device similar to a smart watch to allow children to communicate with teachers in class time. When they are experiencing pain, they can press a button and to alert their teacher’s matching device. Some children don’t put their hands up because they are embarrassed so this would avoid that for them.

The funding from The Children’s Hospital Charity allowed the prototypes to be developed into usable products. They are now in the testing phase and ten patients from Sheffield Children’s are using them for a period of five weeks, recording their experiences daily. The research team will then use this information to assess the benefit of these devices in helping children and young people to manage their conditions.

Ursula said: “I am so grateful for the opportunity to do this work; the charity support has enabled me to transform my initial concepts into fully functional prototypes that are being trialled by actual users. Over the course of both the background work and this project, I have built up relationships with children with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and their parents, and so it has been amazing to be able to work with them to this point and to now see the prototypes in use and helping them. I can’t wait to get all the results and take this project to the next stage.”

Occupational Therapist, Catherine Dunbar, commented on the research:

“The devices are helpful from a medical perspective as they aid in young people managing their own condition. We hope alongside the medicines, the devices will help young people to manage their symptoms effectively and allow them to decide which of the devices they want to use and when. This is a really exciting project and we feel it will really help the young people we work with.

To find out more about research projects funded by The Children’s Hospital Charity visit our website: