Children use mobile technology as part of their daily routine. They are more adaptive to technology and also very open minded about its functionality.

They are able to absorb the useful information presented to them in compelling and innovative ways. This provides a huge opportunity for digital health strategies to engage them and help them develop healthy habits during their formative years.

Development and scope of tools focused on children and adolescents can differ significantly from those aimed at adults. They can offer support, encouragement and can also be essential in changing preconceptions and lifestyle. These characteristics offer significant potential to eliminate long-term health issues that will develop if not stopped short earlier on.

New Technology

Some technologies and gadgets aimed at children are adaptations of adult versions, for example, various smart weight gain apps that were developed for adults. Others need to be specifically developed for children, which would allow them to actively participate in measuring and analyzing their own health while enabling them to share their health information with parents. For example, they can measure their weight, activity levels and some parameters connected with certain chronic diseases. For instance, Ayogo’s Monster Manor App is a free game that encourages kids with Type 1 diabetes to check their blood sugar regularly and helps them manage their disease better.

Condition Tool
Asthma Asthma Sense; Asthma Buddy; Asthma MD; Asthma Pulse; AsthmaCheck; Asthmapolis; AsthmaSense; AsthmaTrack
Crohn’s disease Crohn’s Diary
Diabetes Glucose buddy
Weight management Health Heart
Kidney disease Kidney Diet
Hypertension Smart blood pressure
Pain Management WebMD Pain coach

Managing Asthma in Children Using Technology- A Case Study

According to WHO, India estimates a total of 15-20 million asthmatics. This accounts for approximately 1 out of 12 people. In an article published in The Indian Journal of Pediatrics (April 2002), Dr. Paramesh studied 20,000 children in Bangalore under the age of 18 years at different time points—from 1979,1984,1989,1994 and 1999 and showed the prevalence of asthma at 9%, 10.5%, 18.5%, 24.5% and 29.5% respectively.

According to WHO India estimates a total of 15-20 million asthmatics. This accounts for approximately 1 of 12 people.Click To Tweet

Further studies looked into 6,550 children (between 6 to 15 years) and split them into three groups based on geographical distribution of schools in relation to vehicular traffic and the socioeconomic status of children. In these three groups they found that; in Group I – Children from schools of heavy traffic area showed the prevalence of 19.34%, Group Il – Children from heavy traffic region and the low socioeconomic population had 31.14% and Group III – Children from low traffic area school showed 11.15% respectively. (P: I & II; II & III < 0.001). A continuation of study in rural areas showed 5.7% in children of 6–15 years.  Furthermore, between 1994-99, the persistent asthma also showed an increase from 20% to 27.5% and persistent severe asthma from 4% to 6.5%. The rapid urbanization and economic growth during that period suggests that there is a downward trend in improvement of prevalance of asthma. It is also important to bear in mind, that this study was conducted in 2002, some 14 years ago.

Indeed, with this demonstrated need; digital technology is expanding for asthma management. Mobile asthma management apps have shown to include a vast array of parameters that can include symptom diaries, medication reminders, GPS inhaler attachments, and early warning software for asthma triggers. There is also the option of adjusting or tailoring the technology to suit the user’s needs and thus potentially provide a greater long-term benefit. In addition, many of the apps can enable the data that can be stored and shared with a doctor or health provider during a visit. There is the opportunity to encourage family support and develop a peer-network to ensure there is long-term maintenance of the programme.

Despite the available technology, digital modus operandi has been relatively slow in the field of management of chronic conditions in children. There is a definitive need for these approaches to address a potential long-term problem. Any technological development should focus on the target groups. This would not only enable better adaptation but can also evolve as the lifestyle and cognitive capacity of children develop.

Since this is a vulnerable and impressionable population, attention on aspects around safety, privacy, and parental support is imperative. It is well established that children are at the forefront of technology adoption and in shaping the market needs. Responsibility is needed at an age where peer-based learning can demonstrate significant benefit and leanings.

This article is written by Dr Manyu Prakash, PhD.