Superheroes Now To Teach Children The ABC Of Disease

by Tanya Thomas on Sep 23 2009 8:36 AM

The jetsetting superheroes of yore have now been brought back to paper by a pair of health experts who hope that their series of superhero comics will educate children about diseases and their treatments.

Dr. Kate Hersov joined forces with fellow medic Dr Kim Chilman-Blair to create Medikidz.

She made this decision after a 12-year-old patient asked for help understanding his newly diagnosed leukaemia.

She says that she was growing increasingly frustrated by what she perceives as a worrying lack of child-focused information.

"He said 'I can hardly pronounce it, let alone understand it," the BBC quoted her as saying.

"Often when we made a diagnosis of a young child we felt helpless that we had nothing to give the child themselves to understand what we had just told them," she added.

Kate said that it was out of their "frustration as clinicians" that she and Dr. Chilman-Blair created Medikidz.

"We knew children needed a place to go to understand the medicine, whether that be the diagnosis, medicines or treatment procedures," she said.

The 'Medikidz' are a gang of five larger-than-life superheroes, designed to educate children through a wide range of media.

One element is an interactive website featuring a virtual world of the human body which the child can explore, and the opportunity to create their own avatar (virtual identity) to talk to other children about their condition.

"Parents sometimes feel that children are too young to understand medical concepts, or that they are better off not knowing," Dr. Chilman-Blair said.

"The Medikidz programme wants to change this view.

"We don't sugar-coat serious problems, we provide clear and factual information in a way that is easy to understand and engaging to read.

"We want the children who use Medikidz to be in control of their illness," Dr. Chilman-Blair added.

The two doctors have plans to cover 300 paediatric conditions, but have launched this week with the first ten-including Type 1 diabetes, epilepsy, leukaemia and asthma.

In the asthma comic book, the newly diagnosed Max Bond is taken on a tour of his lungs, while the superheroes Chi, Skinderella, Gastronomic, Pump and Axon explain how and why his lungs malfunction and the drugs that can be used to help.

Kim Gillberg, health promotion manager at Asthma UK, believes that this project may offer a valuable tool to help children.

"It's important that children and young people are given options in the way they access health information and we fully support the use of engaging and interactive materials," she said.

"The essential thing is that the information provided is accurate, positive and empowers children and young people to be able to manage long-term medical conditions, such as asthma, effectively," she added.

All the comic books are peer reviewed and have input from play specialists, nurses and often charities.

Though the first editions would be aimed at the 10-15 age group, there are plans for a storyboard format for younger children also.