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Research for youth, by youth

January 27, 2014
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The KidsCan advisors are a dedicated, enthusiastic group of high school students who are playing a major role in the development of MobileKids, a CFRI study investigating the use of a mobile phone-based game to increase physical activity among kids and teens.

"I've always been interested in research studies," says Alex, a KidsCan advisor. “Having the opportunity to be in a group that helps make decisions for a study that influences my demographic is the best kind of experience."

Through KidsCan, young people are engaged in research not only as clinical subjects but also as partners in the development of research projects relevant to their age group.

The advisory group is made up of 16 students ages 14-17 years old from Vancouver, Richmond and Coquitlam. They meet regularly in person or provide feedback online and aid in recruitment.

The KidsCan group recently released a short video on YouTube demonstrating their excitement for the project.  

"The KidsCan group was instrumental in the design and testing of the MobileKids game. With their advice and feedback, we felt confident that the game would be well received." says Dr. Guy Dumont, KidsCan lead and Principal Investigator for MobileKids. Dr. Dumont is a CFRI Scientist and co-director of Electical & Computer Engineering in Medicine at UBC.

"Through KidsCan we hope to influence how pediatric research is conducted and show the benefits of engaging young people," says Dr. Dumont. "It’s also a way to get children and teens in B.C. excited and involved in science, technology and research."

The MobileKids study has paired a smartphone game, Monster Manor, with an activity sensor called Tractivity. The more kids are active, the more points they collect, and the more they can play.

As Dr. Dumont told Post Media News in December, it’s the first game to use physical activity as currency.

Monster Manor was developed by Ayogo, a local software development company. Tractivity was developed by Vancouver-based Kineteks.

MobileKids is the first showcase project for the KidsCan initiative. KidsCan is funded by the Peter Wall Solutions Initiative and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. It was launched in June 2012 to tackle two major obstacles in the youth community: childhood obesity, and the limited involvement of children in research.

Dr. Anne Junker, a co-investigator with KidsCan, will be presenting on the KidsCan advisory group to the PHSA Board of Directors at the February 2014 Open Meeting. Dr. Junker is a CFRI Clinical Investigator, Pediatric Immunologist at BC Children’s, and Associate Head, Faculty Development, UBC Department of Pediatrics.

Dr. Mark Ansermino, Dr. Jean-Pierre Chanoine, Dr. Ainara Garde are also co-investigators with KidsCan. Dr. Ansermino is a Senior Associate Clinician Scientist and Director of iACT, CFRI; Director of Research for Pediatric Anesthesia, BC Children’s; Associate Professor with the UBCD Dpeartment of Anesthesia. Dr. Chanoine is a Senior Associate Clinician Scientist, CFRI; Head, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, BC Children's; and Clinical Professor, UBC Division of Endocrinology. Dr. Garde is a UBC Postdoctoral Fellow with CFRI and the Pediatric Anesthesia’s Research Team at BC Children’s.

Leah Robertson is the Knowledge Broker for the KidsCan initiative.

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