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LIU Post, Winthrop-University Hospital Produce ‘Flu Busters’ Video Game

Video game design students team up with doctors on children’s game that encourages vaccination

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Morgan Lyle,Assistant Director of Public Relations
LIU Post, Long Island University
516-299-4177

Flubuster charactersBrookville, N.Y. – Graduate students at LIU Post, their professor, and doctors at Winthrop-University Hospital have developed a video game that teaches children how to avoid catching the flu.

“Flu Busters” is currently being used to educate children and parents in pediatric waiting rooms about how the flu vaccine works and how it helps keep people healthy. The goal of the game is to increase awareness and vaccination rates in underserved communities, where vaccination rates are traditionally lower than the national average, and to provide health information in an engaging interactive story environment so that kids can see how difficult it is to avoid the flu virus.

The game also teaches how behaviors such as hand washing, keeping a distance from people who are sick, and getting the vaccine can make a big difference.

To-date, preliminary results of both pre- and post-testing of children’s knowledge about the flu suggest that the game is having a positive influence on increasing rates of vaccination among children, with 100 percent of participants opting in thus far for the flu vaccine.

The idea of an educational game to teach children about the flu vaccine was developed by Dr. Leonard Krilov's team of pediatric specialists at Winthrop-University Hospital, who received a grant to develop the program. Dr. Krilov’s group sought out the services of the Engender Games Group, and a team of students in LIU Post’s Master of Science in Digital Game Design program, to design the game. It is one of a number of serious-purpose video games created by the Engender Games Group, founded and directed by Associate Professor Elena Bertozzi who did the programming and wrote the script for “Flu Busters”.

The game features such characters as Vaccine Man, who eases fears of children and parents about vaccines and educates them about the benefits of getting a flu shot.

“Influenza is a serious infection for everyone, including children. Misconceptions about the illness and the risks from the vaccine have been identified as barriers to people getting immunized. Through this educational interactive video game we hope to better educate children and adolescents about this important issue,” noted Dr. Krilov, who is Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at Winthrop-University Hospital. The LIU Post students and Dr. Bertozzi worked with Dr. Leonard Krilov's team of pediatric specialists at Winthrop-University Hospital in developing “Flu Busters.” Dr. Krilov's team will be collecting data about whether or not children who play the game have higher vaccination rates. LIU students and Dr. Bertozzi will continue modifying the game during testing to ensure that it has the maximum impact.

“It is our hope that the game will become widely used to encourage higher vaccination rates,” Dr. Bertozzi said.

The Winthrop University Hospital team on the project includes Dr. Krilov, the principal investigator, along with sub-investigators Claudia Halaby, MD; Robert Lee, DO; Melodi Pirzada, MD, Jeanne Zinzarella, DO and pediatric research coordinator Ann Mock, RN.

LIU Post students developing “Flu Buster” included Samuel Zarahn, art lead; Troy Cammock, art, graphics; Lauren Perugini, audio and usability lead; Keith Jordan, audio and usability; Matt Cooper, audio and voice acting; and Stephanie Martine, Cole Verderber and Norma Cooper, voice acting.

Posted 01/30/2013

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