Approximately 10% to 12% of New Zealand young people (and 21% of Maori young people) have long-term physical conditions and are more likely to develop psychological problems, particularly anxiety and depression. Delayed treatment leads to worse management of physical conditions, school absence, and poorer long-term outcomes. Recently, electronic health (eHealth) interventions have been shown to be as good as face-to-face therapy and biofeedback techniques have been shown to enhance relaxation during the treatment of anxiety. In addition, young people with long-term physical conditions have expressed a preference for more technologically based support, including game-based interventions, to deal with psychological issues, particularly anxiety.
The aim of this study is to develop a prototype game-based eHealth intervention to address anxiety in young people with long-term physical conditions. The game will be based on the principles of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and will integrate a module of biofeedback-based relaxation.
During the first phase of the study, up to 48 young people with long-term physical conditions aged 13 to 18 years, attending a tertiary pediatric hospital will be invited to participate in a 3-stage series of co-design workshops. Following the design, development, and refinement of a working prototype, during the second phase of the study, a further 20 young people with long-term physical conditions and anxiety will be recruited from the same location to participate in an open pilot trial to evaluate its acceptability, usability, and preliminary efficacy.
Changes in anxiety will be measured using the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item scale (GAD-7) and the Spence Child Anxiety Scales (SCAS) at the end of every module (recommended to be completed weekly), post intervention, and 3 months later. Usability of the intervention will be measured using the System Usability Scale (SUS) and by measuring frequency and quantity of use of the intervention. Acceptability of the intervention will be assessed using brief, open-ended questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, the data from which will be analyzed using a general inductive approach. Recruitment to the study commenced in January 2017 and data collection will be completed by the end of December 2017.
If acceptable and useful, this game-based eHealth intervention may offer a cost-effective and clinically useful intervention for addressing the psychological needs of over 16,000 young people with long term health conditions in New Zealand.