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Video Games As Teaching Tools

What's the quickest way to a child's heart?

For many, it's video games and, as CBS This Morning Health Contributor Dr. Dave Hnida of CBS Station KCNC-TV in Denver reports, that's just the approach one company is taking to teach children about such diseases as asthma and diabetes.

The games, designed by Click Health, an interactive entertainment company, are put together just like any other video game. There's a villain who needs to be defeated by the game player.

In the case of the asthma game, Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus needs to rescue the world after a meteor hits planet Earth and kicks up loads of dust, very bad for people with asthma. The youngster playing the game needs to keep his or her asthma under control to save the planet.

The goal is to help children with asthma to develop a better understanding of their illness and to learn to take better care of themselves, which might translate into fewer visits to the doctor or to the emergency room. The effects of using "Bronkie" are being tested in 200 children with asthma in Oakland, Calif., and the state of Washington.

Most children will find the games a more fun way to learn and more interesting than listening to their parents or their doctor explain why they have to take medicine every day.

The same goes for another game, Packy and Marlon, two elephants who address diabetes. A study by researchers at Stanford University's Medical Center found that diabetic children who played this game gained better control of their blood sugar and cut their need for urgent medical care by almost 90 percent.

These games are available on SuperNintendo and on CD-ROM for home personal computers. Suggested price is about $70. But the good news is that, unlike standard video games, the cost is often covered by health insurance.

The games are not being sold in stores, but you can get them through the Click Health Web site or even through your health insurance company.

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