Project Fizzyo: A Breathing Exercise Game for Children with Cystic Fibrosis
Those who have ever been or worked in a children’s hospital know that atmosphere is everything. There is often vivid color, fun pictures, music, and maybe other forms of entertainment.
Caring for children who are ill presents healthcare providers and parents with unique challenges. As any parent knows, getting kids to do necessary daily activities such as brushing their teeth or putting on shoes can be tough.
This is often when creativity becomes your best friend. Turning boring routine tasks into a game can help children engage and accomplish the things that they need to do.
Healthcare is no different.
Being ill or having a chronic condition such as cystic fibrosis (CF) can be really tough on a child. Most childhood revolves around play and peer interaction. When there is something such as a chronic condition that can set a child apart from their peer group, this can become more difficult. Experiencing the excitement of childhood is important for all kids. It can be difficult for kids with CF who must perform breathing exercises throughout the day to feel like they are having a normal childhood. It is therefore natural for them to resist these boring and unpleasant activities that make them feel different from their peers. Using play to involve children in their healthcare can not only ensure that they are getting the care that they need, but can also make them feel more like a kid.
Lately, technology has been advancing to help kids engage in their breathing exercises. In 2016, on a BBC show called ‘The Big Life Fix,’ Haiyan Zhang, Innovation Director at Microsoft, was asked to try and help a woman, Vicky Coxhead, and her two teenage sons, Aidan and Morgan. Both kids have CF and like most parents, Vicky was struggling to get her kids to do their airway clearance exercises. That’s where Haiyan stepped in. Haiyan and Greg Saul, the creative design technologist, along with some other physiotherapists and researchers at UCL have developed a way to make airway clearance exercises for kids with CF more fun.
Aidan and Morgan have been using the game since its development, and their mom says that this is the first time that her boys have wanted to do physio and that since they are putting more effort into it, it has been more effective. Vicky no longer has to fight every day with her boys to get them to do their exercises. They are finally engaged in their healthcare.
So, what is the game?
The game is called Project Fizzyo, and it has the simple aim to make airway clearance treatments more fun and kid friendly. The project was created with the idea that by engaging kids in their healthcare, their treatments will hopefully be more effective. Doing these treatments will improve quality of life by helping the affected children stay healthy for longer and avoiding CF exacerbations. The device works by using wireless chipped electronic sensors inside airway clearance devices. The sensor then detects breathing and changes each breath into an electronic signal. These electronic signals then control computer games on a tablet. These ‘breaths turned electronic signals’ can then be used to drive a car, play mini golf, collect coins, as well as other games that are being developed.
The game doesn’t stop there. It also collects data so that researchers and healthcare providers can better understand the relationship between routine airway clearance, exercise, and health outcomes. This is important information for advancing and adapting the technology to better suit the needs of the patient population later.