Health psychologist supporting new COVID-19 app design

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A health psychologist at the University of Stirling is supporting the development of a new smartphone game designed to educate young people on COVID-19.

Dr Pamela Rackow, of the Health Psychology Group, Faculty of Natural Sciences, is working on the project led by Glasgow-based studio Game Doctor, which develops interactive technology for science and health education.

The app will support eight to 16-year-olds as they return to school following lockdown – providing general information on the virus and guidance on preventative measures.

Pamela Rackow
This project aims to create a positive game that helps reduce the spread of the virus, and levels of anxiety, by educating on viral infection, transmission and treatment.
Dr Pamela Rackow Faculty of Natural Sciences

Dr Rackow will inform the design of the game – which will be made freely available on Apple and Android devices in September – by analysing information currently being collected through a survey of schoolchildren.

She said: “As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, consideration is being given to young people returning to school in the coming months. We know that this is a challenging time for young people – who are faced with an overwhelming amount of information – and, at times, false information – relating to the virus.

“The game content, mechanics and learning outcomes will be informed by theory and a survey of schoolchildren, which will assess student knowledge gaps and attitudes towards COVID-19.

“This project aims to create a positive game that helps reduce the spread of the virus, and levels of anxiety, by educating on viral infection, transmission and treatment.”

Carla Brown

Dr Carla Brown, founder of Game Doctor, is leading the project.

Dr Rackow will provide feedback and recommendations, based on her analysis and evaluation, to the game designers – who are also working with experts at the University of Glasgow and Queen’s University Belfast.

The game – funded through a £50,000 grant from Innovate UK – will be aimed at eight to 16-year-olds, with more advanced levels for teenagers, and could be rolled out across the UK. The designers also believe the format could be applied to other illnesses, providing a useful educational tool on topics such as diabetes and asthma.

Dr Carla Brown, founder of Game Doctor, said: “This is a tense time for all of us, particularly for young people navigating ‘the new norm’ who, if things go according to plan, will be returning to school in August. We hope that by educating and equipping children to adjust, they will feel empowered and much less anxious. This funding will enable us to use our expertise to make a difference in these challenging times.”

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