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Sproutel: Creating Play Therapy for Every Child

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and Founders League are collaborating toshowcase local companies pioneering new health and wellness solutions. The diversity of these companies captures the depth of activity happening across Rhode Island’s startup scene and highlights the global impact these companies are already having on the world. Below is the second in a nine-part blog series on these special local companies.

Parents wish the best for their children. Deepest among these dreams is the hope that they live happy, healthy lives. But for many families, that is sometimes easier said than done. Children often need more than wishes to deal with chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes, and most children need help developing habits and behaviors that will keep them fit and healthy into adulthood.

One Rhode Island-based company has designed a creative and interactive way to use play as a way to engage kids in an ongoing conversation about staying healthy. Meet Jerry the Bear, Sproutel’s flagship product.

Jerry the Bear first came to market last year as a tool for children with Type I diabetes to understand and cope with the realities of their disease. Jerry, a snuggly plush bear, serves as a proxy for kids--they feed him, monitor his blood sugar and administer insulin as Jerry competes in a series of Olympic-type games.

This unique combination of fuzzy warmth and high-tech engineering works because it offers engagement, education, and support. So successful was Jerry in delighting children, the team recently set out to expand Jerry’s capabilities to reach kids who did not have diabetes.

The newest incarnation of Jerry retains all his cuddly goodness, but connects him to a tablet where parents can select from a portfolio of health and wellness stories, including diabetes, food allergies, and asthma. Jerry is more than a toy--he is a trusted health coach who connects with children in ways adults simply cannot.

The vision? Become the Sesame Street for healthcare. The four-person team, affectionately referred to as “Sproutelians,” were recently awarded a federal SBIR grant to continue their development of new products. Sproutel’s success has been recognized in more ways than just this federal grant -- they were one of five startup companies that participated in an IBM-sponsored startup reality show Austin, Texas.

Keep your eye on this team: no doubt big things are in store. More at www.sproutel.com

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