Ladies: ever wish you could find the perfect group of girlfriends who "get you" and your diabetes too? Well, now you can!

In another amazing feat from the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) in terms of inventing new ways for social media to impact PWDs' lives, Brandy Barnes, founder of the DiabetesSisters online community, has just unveiled a cool new matchmaking platform with many of the attributes of online dating sites! Except this one is also a learning game that connects women with diabetes to kindred spirits for mentoring and mutual support, while teaching them more about D-management and ways to improve their overall health. The SisterMatch Program was announced yesterday, and is being tested by early adopters as we speak:

Brandy follows in the footsteps of Manny Hernandez, founder of the Diabetes Hands Foundation, who launched the online Facebook-based game called HealthSeeker in Summer 2010. That game is focused on knowledge and encouraging people to make real-life, incremental behavior changes for healthier living. Brandy's game is also designed by the Vancouver-based social game development group Ayogo Games, which focuses on innovative health games.

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"SisterMatch's innovation lies in its matchmaking algorithm, which gathers information about members' attitudes, personalities and preferences, and then delivers each Sister her best 'SisterMatches.' ... Women with diabetes will be able to build a list of compatible peer support and begin new friendships, while also learning helpful information about healthy living in a fun, interactive way," the announcement states.

I had the chance to personally test the program, with the aid of Ayogo producer Michelle Parent yesterday, and I have to say, it's a really appealing platform that I think will keep users coming back! The whole design is based on the concept of a patchwork quilt, in which players earn new squares, or "quilt blocks," with increasing ability to create more intricate designs as they complete a series of quizzes and tasks.

You have to be a registered member of DiabetesSisters.org to get started. Once you're in, the first task you're prompted to complete is a brief set of biographical questions, which also ask you personality questions like: "what are three words that describe you?" For that, you earn your first two quilt blocks. Then you can begin to earn more by clicking on the various icons on the home screen (the quilt-scape) and completing three kinds of tasks:

* Personality Quizzes - which ask you fun stuff, like "how important is fashion to you?" This information is used to help you find the most compatible member matches.

* Knowledge Tests — true/false and multiple choice questions that test your knowledgeable of various diabetes / women's health topics.

* Activity Challenges — aimed at getting people to take real-life health-oriented actions. These range from something as simple as "Write down 10 things that bring happiness to your life, and post the list to your fridge or to your online profile," to even more real-world challenges, like "make an exercise date with a Diabetes Sister," or even "Bring a favorite low-fat, low-sugar dessert to a PODS meetup (local meetup) to share, and share the recipe."

On the homepage, your own quilt appears in the center, and the larger quilts you see all around are other users "Avatars." As you scroll over them, their profile info pops up for your review. Those on the inside, closest to you, are your best matches. These stay in place unless a new member joins who happens to be an even better match for your personality and preferences. You can tell who's been most active in the game by how intricate their quilt is.

 

DiabetesSisters currently has about 9,000 members, mainly based in the U.S., and ca. 3,000 are really engaged. They include women with gestational, type 1, type 2, and LADA — any woman with diabetes is welcome.  I asked Brandy about the geographical reach of the SisterMatch Program, and was told that the focus is matching on the web, but they also wanted to encourage real-world interaction when possible, so users can also earn quilt blocks for attending local meetups or other DiabetesSisers events.

Michelle of Ayogo tells me, "We'll be monitoring people's matches, what people like. We'll add new features and be updating it over the next couple of months.  We hope to add new content on a weekly basis." Wow, that's pretty ambitious, IMHO.

Brandy, who founded DiabetesSisters with a friend in 2008, says:

"I'm excited because it really was drawn from own personal experience when I was pregnant with my daughter and dealing with diabetes. I so longed for something like this... to provide opportunities for women with diabetes to put in some information, and walk away with newfound friends they never had before.  I dreamed and wished something like this existed!

"My daughter was born in 2005, so it's been 6 years.  I'm so happy to bring something to community that I had a part in that will serve women with diabetes — especially because there's nothing else out there like it.

"People aren't exactly walking around with signs that say 'I have diabetes,' so it's hard to find others to connect with. And even harder to hard to find people that you have things in common with... this makes it easier to narrow down as well!"

SisterMatch is funded by a grant from Sanofi-Aventis, although they're not involved in the project in any hands-on way, and will receive only "very general information about how people are using the program — what kinds of things women with diabetes like," Brandy says. The next step will be looking at creating a mobile app for the program.

Congratulations to Brandy and Team! And also to WWDs (women with diabetes) everywhere!

{btw, if you're a health games enthusiast, also check out Ayogo's new iHeart Jellyfish iPhone game that rewards people for achieving a healthy heartbeat — neat interface!}

 
Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.

This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.