An Animation for Low Health Literacy Diabetics: the Effects of Too Much Sugar in the Body


Background Information

Although it is common knowledge that diabetes causes a build up of sugar in the body due to the body either lacking insulin or having insulin resistance, the effects of glucose accumulation is lesser known. Excessive glucose accumulation, or hyperglycemia, affects many organs within the body, including the eyes, heart, kidneys, and feet. Initial mild symptoms include increased thirst, stomach pain, frequent urination, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, or a rapid pulse. More severe symptoms are caused when damage is rendered to the nerves and blood vessels. Over time this can result in loss of vision, blockages in the kidneys and smaller blood vessels throughout the body, and loss of sensation in the foot. Ulcers commonly develop as a result of injuries that go untreated due to damaged nerves that are unable to carry the pain stimulus to the brain.

Project Goals

Goals of this animation involve educating low health literacy diabetics about the effects of their disease, specifically of hyperglycemia caused by diabetes. Promoting healthy behaviors to help manage diabetes while also presenting the information in a coherent and visually interesting manner were also primary goals of this animation. We carefully structured the content and assets to ensure that the information could be easily understood by a low health literacy audience, from the construction of the script, the storyboard, animatic, and the final animation.


Challenges posed during the development of this animation included developing content that would be readily comprehendible by a low health literacy audience. The script needed to be as concise as possible and contain short sentences while still teaching all the major points of the content. Camera movements and color choices were made so as not to alarm or confuse any patients who may view this animation. After further critique and evaluation, progress is currently being made to adjust the timing of certain sequences to give more time to absorb the information. 



Date Started: 09/01/2014
Date Completed: 12/09/2014
Audience: Low health literacy diabetics
Final Deliverable: 1920 x 1080 pixel HDTV animation, 112 seconds


  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Autodesk 3ds Max
  • Pixologic Zbrush
  • Daz 3D



These images are a few examples of various assets created during the course of the animation, combining 2D and 3D elements for the final rendering in After Effects. The first and second images are of an eye and kidney modeled in ZBrush and then brought into 3ds Max for animation. The third image shows the kidneys with their blood supply in 3ds Max. A 2D cross-section of the left kidney was created in Photoshop for later compositing in After Effects, as shown in the fourth image. The fifth image is a male model posed in Daz 3D and imported into 3ds Max, the sixth is a painting created in Photoshop for compositing in After Effects, and the seventh is a close-up of the model's foot with wounds drawn in Photoshop overlaid on top.


The above is the storyboard rendered in Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop after the script was completed, taking into account a lower reading level for our low health literacy audience.