It’s challenging enough for adult patients to monitor and control blood glucose levels. But what about diabetic children? Parents may find it hard to imagine a 5-year-old eager to comply with a daily regimen of finger pricks. Sounds about as likely as one begging for second helpings of broccoli.
But with its recent U.S. launch of the Didget blood glucose monitoring system, Bayer is trying an innovative approach to motivating kids: making a game out of testing. The Didget meter connects directly to Nintendo DS and DS Lite, and offers rewards for consistent monitoring and for meeting personal blood glucose target ranges. Users who comply can earn points that unlock new game levels or allow them to customize their gaming experience.
The meter is based on Bayer’s existing Contour system and uses the same technology, with features such as No Coding technology and automatic correction for common interfering substances. However, the Didget is aimed squarely at 4- to 14-year-olds. The system is designed to “add an element of fun” and to help ease “the parent/child tension that testing often creates.” Bayer has even brought in Nick Jonas of The Jonas Brothers as a paid spokesperson; he’s a Contour user himself who calls the Didget “cool and fun.”
The Didget has two testing levels and comes with a set of games called “Knock ‘Em Downs: World’s Fair.” In addition, the meter will eventually connect to a web community called DIDGET World, where kids can spend game points and create their own page. The system and the online community debuted last year in the United Kingdom, but apparently it’s too early to gauge its success. Andy Swanson, Senior Global Marketing Manager at Bayer Diabetes Care, says they are still collecting information. But he noted that the International Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Diabetes considers self-monitoring blood glucose to be an essential tool managing childhood and adolescent diabetes.
According to a profile in Business Week, Bayer created the first blood-glucose meter in 1973, but over time has lost its lead in the diabetes testing market. Company executives are hoping innovative products like the Contour and Didget will put them back on top. Challenges include the fact that unlike glucose monitors, games and gaming systems aren’t generally covered by insurance. Also, game content must be updated regularly in order to hold children's attention. “We have to keep the content fresh in order to maintain motivation and engagement,” Swanson says. “Bayer is aware of the constantly evolving trends in the gaming industry,” and, he promises, “will continue to develop new gaming content and work to keep the Didget meter compatible with new gaming systems as they are introduced.”
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in three children are overweight or obese and the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes rises dramatically with weight gain. While preventing diabetes by getting kids active and eating better is obviously the highest priority, giving kids with both type 1 and type 2 tools to control the disease is a pretty cool thing.Ms. Graham is a writer and editor with a broad publishing background and a current focus on health and wellness. To read more of her articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Michael Dinan