“Next Generation” HIT
My dad was a big fan of the phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Of course, the not-so-subliminal message was simple: I want you, my children, to do better than what I seem to do.
What parent doesn’t want their kids to “outwit, outplay, and outlast” the parent’s best efforts? Once we’ve had our neurological hardwiring soldered firmly into solid pathways, it’s much harder for us old dogs to establish those new tricks. (Yes, “old dogs” includes even those 24-ish years plus — which is most of you, I’d wager.)
Our kids, though, have pleuripotentiality out their young wazoos. They glean, gather, garner, gain, and grow like little black holes scooping up all the light and matter within their reach. If you’ve ever seen an iPad in the hands of a two-year-old or watched a five-year-old zip through master levels of (fill-in-the-blank) video game which you can’t even understand past Hit Start to Begin, then you know how these little sponges take to technology like yuppies took to Starbucks.
After struggling these past several decades through the birth pangs of this giant HIT baby we’re all trying to deliver and listening to doctors and techies and vendors and politicians all accuse each other of being the cause of the slow progress of this birthing process, it makes me wonder if we’re not all missing one huge point. Maybe this baby isn’t meant to be born for us. Maybe it’s meant to be birthed by us, but for the next generation.
So, why aren’t more efforts being directed at giving our little learning maestros tools to help prepare them for a better healthcare life through technology? Well, it warms my pediatric heart to see that some folks out there have started to understand that a better healthcare future can be reached, not by trying to push and prod us old mules, but by giving our children a way to “do what we say, not what we do.”
“Let’s Move!” and the US Department of Agriculture have teamed up to sponsor the “Apps for Healthy Kids” challenge. This competition seeks to inspire app makers to build kid-friendly tools (i.e., games) which will help our progeny think healthier, act healthier, and associate technology with healthcare in ways we probably can’t even imagine.
HealthNutsMedia, a start-up, is one of the competitors. They’re two very successful and talented animators building some amazing new animations and games designed to teach kids about complex healthcare issues via kid-friendly language and kid-engaging media choices. (I love what they’re developing so much I’ve even agreed to help guide their pediatric perspective.)
They’ve entered this challenge with a memory game app (you know, like “Simon” where you had to slap the flashing lights in the appropriate order, in the mean time driving your folks bonkers with the obnoxious, repetitive tones it emitted.) Theirs is called “Parrot Pyramid.” It’s kid fun that also teaches them about food groups and making healthier food choices.
OK, granted this is barely scratching the proverbial surface for what healthcare information technology can actually do in the hands of our children. But, I think using child-friendly media technology (animation, games, apps) and child-level language to promote health awareness and HIT savvy in our children is perhaps the smartest use of HIT I’ve ever seen. If they “do as we say” and build upon these meager beginnings, I’ll just betcha their version of HIT will be light years beyond what us old fogies can ever even hope to imagine.
I hope you’ll consider voting in the Apps for Healthy Kids contest — it only takes a minute to register. (My friends at HealthNutsMedia have asked me to say thanks in advance if you decide to drop your vote for their Parrot Pyramid!)
From the future-hopeful trenches…
“He’s not pining, he’s passed on. This parrot is no more. He has ceased to be. He’s expired and gone to meet his maker. He’s a stiff, bereft of life, he rests in peace. If you hadn’t have nailed him to the perch he’d be pushing up the daisies. He’s rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-parrot!” – one of my favorites from Monty Python
Dr. Gregg Alexander, a grunt in the trenches pediatrician, directs the “Pediatric Office of the Future” exhibit for the American Academy of Pediatrics and is a member of the Professional Advisory Council for ModernMedicine.com. More of his blather…er, writings…can be found at his blog, practice web site or directly from firstname.lastname@example.org.