Play to fight cystic fibrosis



In February 2014, the CHU Sainte-Justine hosted the Hacking Health Montreal event where people working in the fields of healthcare and technology came together to solve major international health problems in a 48-hour weekend sprint. Several Affordance team members joined forces with other participants and came up with PEP HERO, a game to help cystic fibrosis patients better adhere to their breath therapy.

Cystic fibrosis is a respiratory disease that affects thousands of children in Canada. To help treat the disease and increase their life expectancy, they have to go through what is called the PEP therapy.  Every day, they have to blow in a device to expel the mucus buildup in their lungs. The problem is that only about 20% adhere to this therapy.

Willing to tackle this problem, Affordance and its team decided to design PEP HERO. In the game, children suffering from cystic fibrosis control ships with their breath to avoid obstacles and destroy mucus accumulating in the bronchi. The player’s breath is measured by a PEP device which is then connected to a computer-interface to control the game elements. PEP HERO was inspired by the designer John Danger’s master’s project. In fact, PEP HERO was the genesis of the online platform Breathing Games., developed by the devoted work of Fabio Balli.

For the Hacking Health competition, the judges from Ste-Justine’s Integration Committee found that PEP Hero was one of the projects with the greatest potential impact. So, after Hacking Health, Affordance and the other team members decided to present the project to Forces Avenir, an academic competition which aims promote the development of socially-conscious and community-focused projects. PEP Hero was a finalist in that competition and the game has generated a lot of interest from the media, notably at Radio-Canada, in the Metro journal, and at Canal D.

Serious games and gamification are a powerful way of engaging and motivating users. They have positive impacts in my fields, including health, education, training and many more.

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