My Happy PAT: A Game App for Helping Children With Cystic Fibrosis to Learn About Nutrition

Lucia Pannese
My Happy PAT: A Game App for Helping...

Cystic Fibrosis is the most common life-threating autosomal inherited disease in Europe incidence varying between 1:1.800 (Slovakia) and 1:25.000 (Finland) new-borns. Currently over 35.000 cases of CF are registered in Europe. Data projections indicate that in Italy 1 out of 2.500-3.000 newborns has CF (200 new cases pro year).

A good nutritional status can always contribute to the general wellbeing of children, but in the case of children with chronic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, such awareness is vital. Hence, finding a smart way to involve children in their self-care and help them to understand the importance of maintaining a food nutritional status is extremely important.

The game “My Happy PAT”  is part of the results of the European MyCyFAPP project a 4 years wide research coming to its end in December 2018, that aims to shed light on one of the biggest challenges of cystic fibrosis patients: reaching an adjusted dose of pancreatic enzymes replacement that is administered to each patient according to their nutritional needs and the food ingested. The whole project aims at raising patients’ quality of life through awareness raising and self-management. One of the elements studied and developed within the project to reach this aim, is a serious game for tablet, that was co-designed together with the target group: children with cystic fibrosis between 4 and 11 years really contributed to the design of the game, so that their motivation and expectations were the main guideline for development!

“My Happy PAT” has been awarded as “best innovator” at the Innova Salute Award 2017 in the category “Health and Wellbeing education”. This is an Italian initiative, launched by public administration together with the pharmaceutical company Teva, aimed at recognizing health projects which offer innovation with a high impact. The prize recognises the educational game-app developed by the Consortium to teach children in their learning process about food nutrients and healthy habits.

My Happy PAT

The main aim of the game app is to explain what a healthy life entails and what are food nutrients, distinguishing the main macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and their subcategories (e.g.: fats of animal and plant origin), so children can understand the difference among foods. Apart from this, through the game children learn about the quantity of fats in specific aliments as well as the importance to hydrate often through the day and the importance of physical activity. All these are fundamental elements for their wellbeing.

Since the age range is quite broad (4-11) and is aimed at several countries, the game adapts its contents according to the age of the young user and the country of provenance, thus considering differences to patients alimentary habits.

In the case of such a development, the challenge is always to find a smart balance between learning and engagement.

“Children love playing” – explains Imaginary, partner of the MyCyFAPP project and main responsible for the game development- “for this reason, we designed a game app in which players are responsible for the care of the avatar”. The game conveys the need to provide children with proper information about their illness and the need to stimulate the care for nutritional status.

The avatar, main character of the game, is a nice monster who needs some basic care such as good nutrition, some sleep, hygiene habits, exercise, etc. Players are responsible for the general wellbeing of the avatar. As the game progresses, the avatar status changes asking for rest or food. While playing with the mini-games (small self-contained games within the broader narrative of the game itself), children learn about nutrition as well as to understand their own needs, the importance of staying hydrated and exercising.

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