Wednesday 21 May 2014, 15:44 | By Adam Hallows
In The News May 2014 – Drama Therapy, Health Apps and MedCity
We’re excited to say it’s a busy time at Creative Skills For Life right now. Not only are we launching our research into the effects of music on alleviating stress and anxiety, we are also pioneering an online platform which will enable young people with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions to access digital creative therapy tools for healing purposes.
With our interests crossing the health, technology and creative disciplines, we report on relevant news on Twitter and have picked three stories that have got us thinking recently. They all exemplify how the relationship between these three spheres can play out, and most importantly how research (read: funding) is key to furthering the success of digital creative health projects.
DRAMA HELPS CHILDREN WITH AUTISM TO COMMUNICATE
A recent study conducted by the University Of Kent reveals that children who have autism can improve their communication and interpersonal skills by taking part in drama activities.
The children who took part in the study spent time in sensory environments and were encouraged to respond to sound, light, puppetry and physical action triggers – all facilitated by trained performers. As the Independent reported, every child who used the drama sensory rooms saw improvements, with just under a third of the children seeing significant positive changes in their social interaction.
What’s more encouraging than the results of the research is the implementation of drama activities in all schools for children with autism and training programmes for teachers, health professionals, families and care workers as a diagnosis aid as well as a post-diagnosis activity.
Dr Julie Beadle-Brown from the University Of Kent said: “We are pleased with the results and believe that this study has provided strong enough evidence to justify further research into the impact of the intervention on children with a range of different needs, as well as research to help us understand how and why the intervention appears to work”.
TOP THREE APPS TACKLING CHILDHOOD OBESITY
With the mHealth app market growing, the spotlight is now being turned onto research into the accuracy and regulation of health apps. Last month iMedical Apps published a study from University Of Kansas into a number of apps targeted at helping children who are overweight or obese.
Identifying that over a third of children and young people in the US are overweight, and 46 per cent of children have a smartphone by the time they’re 12-years-old, it perhaps isn’t surprising that the researchers found 173 relevant children’s fitness apps.
What does come as a shock though is how few apps incorporate strategies for changes in children’s behaviour and activity. For example, only about half of the apps recommend children take part in an hour of exercise and eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and less than 25 per cent recommend children reduce the amount of sugary drinks and fast food they consume.
The app rated most highly by the researchers however – Iron Kids, a personal training aid – performed far above the others, maybe because it was developed by paediatricians.
In order to find other health apps that have a rubber stamp of approval by actual healthcare professionals and have been thoroughly researched, the current NHS Health Apps Library is a good starting point. But exactly how many parents know about this resource is another question (as is the whole iParent/iPhone debate in itself – Mumsnet, standby).
In the meantime though, here’s a rundown of the top three apps the researchers found:
1. Iron Kids
BORIS JOHNSON LAUNCHES MEDCITY
Modelled on TechCity – the UK’s equivalent to America’s Silicon Valley – MedCity was launched last month by London mayor Boris Johnson. With £4million investment and some of the country’s leading academics and business people backing the initiative, MedCity will link together the life sciences sectors in London, Cambridge and Oxford to form a ‘power cluster’.
Johnson says: “MedCity will span everything from research to clinical trials to manufacturing, across biotech, med tech and health tech. I am in no doubt that having the whole ‘chain’ from small spin-offs to massive companies doing their research, clinical development and manufacturing here in London and the south east can be as important to our economy as the financial services sector is today”.
Well, thanks for the official blurb there, Boris. But can MedCity really stand up to all this hype? Jess Bland from the Guardian questions if MedCity will have the buzz or exclusivity to attract attention, as TechCity has.
Bland writes: “…MedCity’s imposing advisory board includes the great and good of the scientific establishment. This gives the organisation stature, but doesn’t make it very attractive or approachable… Perhaps they could build directly on the TechCity network, linking to digital health in a more convincing way than they have so far.”
We’ll be keeping a close eye on the possible collaboration between TechCity and the new MedCity as Creative Skills For Life monitors research, trials and projects from the emerging health tech market.