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[IP] NYTimes.com Article: A Guessing Game to Rally the Diabetic Child

This article from NYTimes.com 
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Here is an article on a new game for diabetic kids in today's NY Times. I'd love to give it a try.  
Denise Guerin
Type 1 46 years 
Minimed 507 3 years

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A Guessing Game to Rally the Diabetic Child


PEOPLE with chronic medical conditions often find the tedium or
discomfort of treatment more unpleasant than the disease. Now a
medical student has proposed a way of making medical compliance
less burdensome: why not turn it into a computer game?

 This summer Vikram Sheel Kumar, a student at Harvard University
and M.I.T.'s joint Division of Health Sciences and Technology,
plans to begin a clinical trial of DiaBetNet, a program in which
diabetics ages 13 to 15 will use hand-held computers and specially
designed software in a competition to guess their glucose levels.
The goal is to inspire the children to follow proper medical

 Conceived and designed by Mr. Kumar and his faculty adviser, Prof.
Alex Pentland of the M.I.T. Media Laboratory, which is financing
the project, DiaBetNet relies on the human urge to win. Just as
children play arcade games over and over hoping to get the highest
score, Mr. Kumar and Professor Pentland hope the participants will
be eager to increase their DiaBetNet scores.

 "They'll play the game and they'll say, `Hey, I got that right!' "
Mr. Kumar said. "This way, there will be something to look forward

 Patients with Type 1 diabetes lack the insulin they need to help
their cells take in glucose from the bloodstream. A large meal can
lead to an excess of sugar in their blood, while heavy exercise
after an insulin injection can result in low blood sugar. Dangerous
medical complications can result from either. It takes a mix of
meal planning, exercise and insulin injections to keep Type 1
diabetics properly regulated.

 Diabetics must check their glucose levels several times a day by
analyzing a drop of blood from a fingerprick so that they can set
their insulin dosage accurately. It is tempting for a child to skip
the test and hope that the standard dose will do.

 DiaBetNet is designed not only to encourage children to check
their glucose levels but also to teach them how food and exercise
affect glucose, and to use that knowledge to win.

 The children must must wear a wireless accelerometer that
determines how much they exercise by measuring their vertical
motion. Each child will also carry a blood glucose meter that will
plug into the serial port of a Handspring Visor Platinum hand-held
computer. When a drop of blood is fed into the meter, the reading
will be sent wirelessly through the Handspring to a computer at the
media lab.

 For the first three blood tests of each day, the glucose level
appears on the hand-held device as a number. The daily guessing
game begins later when, rather than showing the number reported by
the glucose meter, the Handspring displays a graph summarizing the
child's physical activity, carbohydrate level and prior glucose
data for the day. The more accurately the child then predicts the
glucose level, the higher the score. To score, the child must
register a glucose level within his or her target range, so that no
unsafe but correctly predicted result is rewarded.

 It is even possible to challenge other members of the project on
the Internet through the Handspring. Two children can study each
another's statistics and compete at guessing each other's glucose

 A game involving blood tests and meters may sound too tedious to
be successful. But the abundance of children who have mastered
Pokimon play on their Game Boys, researchers say, suggests that
children will struggle to absorb anything they find interesting.
Narcissism may also work to DiaBetNet's advantage, since people
tend to find themselves inherently intriguing.

 DiaBetNet aims to create a diabetic community for children in
which they both cooperate and compete. Grouped into teams of four
with a rotating captain who can get a higher score by persuading
everyone on his team to play, the children get points not only for
predicting their own and others' glucose levels but also for
offering useful advice on strategy. Data for every player will be
available on a DiaBetNet Web site, as well as rankings of the top
players and teams.

 Mr. Kumar said he hoped that a stream of advice and sympathy would
rally children when they find their scores dropping. "We're hoping
the community will normalize times when the step back seems worse
than the step forward," he said.

 He suggested that people in general, not just children, would be
more likely to take medicine properly if they could see the results
instantly. If initial trials are successful, DiaBetNet could lead
to programs for other people who need to take special care of

 Mr. Kumar's next project is a wireless game for manic-depressives
called HiRoller, although he has not yet come up with a
quantifiable measure for a person's mental state. Perhaps the
future of personal health maintenance over all will hinge not only
on medication but on software as well.  



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