Gaming Disease, Enhancing Children's Knowledge

Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP
Published Online: Monday, July 9th, 2018
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 97% of teens aged 12 to 17 years play digital games. We live in a society that is increasingly becoming dependent on technology. Children begin playing with some form of digital entertainment at a young age. Now, research suggests video games can improve chronic health conditions.
The Games for Health Journal has published a systematically review on the link between serious video games and health outcomes in children aged younger than 18 years.
Serious games (also called “games for change,” “games for impact,” or a variety of other names) teach a variety of life skills in an engaging, fun manner. Researchers narrowed their search results to 18 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that used serious game as an intervention, and tested their impact on a child’s chronic condition.
The RCTs evaluated many health topics including spastic cerebral palsy, diabetes, asthma, and amblyopia (lazy eye) in the context of serious gaming.
One study found substantial reductions in emergency department and unscheduled office visits in kids with asthma. Knowledge increased significantly in the intervention group compared with the control group. However, another study found no significant changes in lung function between groups and no changes in asthma severity.
In diabetes, a researcher group documented less hyperglycemia (and significant knowledge improvement) in the game group compared with the control group.
These researchers also noted that including a parent or an adult in the serious game seemed to galvanize improvements. The researchers note that games may give parents and children hypothetical situations to discuss. Doing so introduces important (and perhaps applicable) topics, but removed the pressure of discussing real-life situations. They urge game designers to create games that can include parents.
Put simply, gaming that targets specific disease states may help improve a child’s understanding and self-management.

Holtz BE, et al. Serious games for children with chronic diseases: a systematic review. Games Health 2018:7(29):1-11. 

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