Video Games and Cancer

A study published this month in Pediatrics has found that video games are successfully used to improve adherence in adolescents and young adults undergoing cancer treatment.

Okay, here is a great example of improving treatment through a medium that kids know and love: video games. A study published this month in Pediatrics has found that not only was a video game successfully used to improve adherence in adolescents and young adults undergoing cancer treatment, but it also improves cancer self-efficacy and knowledge. The latter is especially interesting to me as an advocate for health literacy in children.

The game, called Re-Mission, is a product of HopeLab, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating innovative interventions for young people with chronic diseases such as cancer, obesity, sickle cell disease, autism and major depressive disorder. Re-Mission is a free download from the website, but be warned that it is rated for teen use.

(Read more about MDNG's take on video games for health in the January 2007 article, "Battling Illness One Joystick at a Time." Also, read our web exclusive coverage of the 2008 Games for Health Conference.)

Re-Mission has been out for a couple of years, and the next product in the pipeline is Ruckus Nation, a program intended to target obesity. While the use of software/video games to increase children’s physical activity sounds a little counter intuitive, I looked at the results of the idea competition launched last year and the results were impressive. A grand prize went to Stacy Cho, a middle school teacher in Seattle for Dancing Craze, an interactive game with wearable motion sensors that make your virtual character come alive as you dance yourself. No word yet on what the actual product will be, but it looks like they have a fine start.

I experienced downloading difficulty for Re-Mission so I can’t really comment on the game, but it was easy to submit a problem ticket on the website and hopefully I’ll have it up and running soon… I want to turn some neighborhood kids loose on it, get their feedback, and see just how much they learn from it. If anyone out there has information regarding similar programs that help kids understand their bodies and health issues better, I’d like to know about them — please leave your comments here.