Critter Quest: An Inclusive Physical Activity App for Children

Purpose

The current paediatric population are not reaching targeted government's guidelines of physical activity. This can lead to serious implications to children's health and wellbeing. Furthermore children with chronic health conditions and/or impairments participate in activity less than the general population. Activity apps have been shown to support positive behavioural change. Although many apps exist, promoting physical activity, an opportunity to design an app inclusive and accessible for children with challenging health conditions and disabilities was identified. The aims of this study were:  

  • To design an app that parents and children would use that promotes inclusive physical activity.
  • To evaluate the feasibility of using the app.
  • To use feedback and demand from users to make adjustments to app functionality prior to public release.

Approach

  • A team was created to design and develop a new activity app - Critter Quest : Physiotherapist, App developers, sponsors and funders.
  • A feasibility study was conducted into the usability of between October 2018 and March 2019. Families with children aged between 6 and 12 years old were recruited via advertisement from social media and hospital posters. Numbers of users and 4 week retention rates were recorded.
  • Qualitative data was compiled from questionnaires after 6 weeks of using the app. This was used to guide the final developments of Critter Quest prior to public use.

Outcomes

Critter Quest is a new game-based app that promotes activity by rewarding activity. To promote inclusivity, differing levels of ability were incorporated into the app. Activity levels were categorised with consideration into level of dependency and long-term health requirements. The app also encourages family involvement. 133 adults expressed interest in trialling the game. 62 consented to the trial with 130 playing Critter Quest (62 adults, 68 children). Age range for the children was 6 -12 years of age (median =9.4) 74 players (57%) continued to play after initial download. 38 participants continued to play after 4 weeks giving a retention rate of 51%. Overall feedback was positive. Few amendments (activity choices and addition of an audio file) were made to the app prior to launch for public use.  

Critter Quest is a feasible app for parents and children to promote physical activity. Further research is required to determine the clinical effectiveness of Critter Quest on activity levels and for specific cohorts of children with chronic health conditions. Physiotherapists should consider their role in the development and utilisation of technology in healthcare promotion.

Implications

Critter Quest App is now available worldwide on Apple app store and Google play for free to download. It has been incorporated as part of health promotion in the author's hospital.

Fund acknowledgements

This project was funded by the CORRA Foundation of the Scottish Government under the Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention and Adult Learning and Empowering Communities fund. This was a partnership working between Physiotherapy Department Royal Hospital Children Glasgow, Glasgow Children's Hospital Charity (sponsor) and Team Challenge Apps Ltd (the app developers).

Additional notes

This work was presented at Physiotherapy UK 2019