A recent app developed by UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, and funded by a National Institutes of Health SEPA Award, serves as a great example for what we can achieve when we use technology in the service of community. This time, the collaboration resulted in educating people about the importance of healthy lifestyles and habits through the creation of Monster Heart Medic. This free, new app for iOS – and soon coming to Android – is a well crafted educational adventure game that explores the cardiovascular system by examining how it is affected by healthy living.
Meet Ragnar! A friendly 3 eyed monster who needs students’ help! Ragnar is not feeling very well and needs children to help him get better! The game is cleverly crafted through an interactive narrative. As students build their knowledge of the cardiovascular system and healthy living, they earn health achievements. Through hands-on tests, interactive simulators, discussions with health professionals, animated monster stories, and arcade games, players learn about common cardiovascular conditions, diagnostic tests, and what steps can be taken to get and keep a healthy cardiovascular system.
From learning about the different parts that make up the cardiovascular system, to truly embracing the role of a healthcare provider, students use medical tools like a stethoscope and pressure cuff to help diagnose cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, the app does a brilliant job of bringing to life and helping children visualize the dangerous effects of high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.
We all know how much children love customizing characters and Ragnar is no exception! Children can customize him with hats, moustaches, hairstyles and much more. Even with the fun music and character customization, the ultimate goal and lessons of the game are never lost. The different game levels reinforce the importance of healthy food and lifestyle choices. As students diagnose and treat Ragnar, they will learn how to make these choices for themselves so that they do not end up like this monster!
While Monster Heart Medic is geared towards children, teens and adults can greatly benefit from some of the fun as well. The exciting game play serves as a great tool for clinicians and parents. They can use it with children to enhance and develop their health literacy and make informed decisions about how to lead and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
This past year, I co-taught Advanced Topics in Education (ATEd), a project-based course where physician assistant students at the Keck School of Medicine of USC explore the changing dynamics in how people today communicate and investigate how they can use these different platforms that technology has afforded us to deliver patient education outside the four walls of the examination room. Monster Heart Medic serves as a brilliant example of how we can help tackle problems in healthcare by reaching out and delivering education; this time through a exciting game!