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Global Handwashing Day: City develops computer games to fight infectious disease

by Hollie Jenkins

With over 3.5 million children dying each year before their fifth birthday due to diarrhoea and pneumonia, researchers at City University London are helping promote good hygiene and handwashing practice to children using educational computer games to support Global Handwashing Day on October 15 2010.

Implemented across more than 80 countries Global Handwashing Day is an initiative involving a range of stakeholders including The World Bank, Unicef and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The focus of this year's Global Handwashing Day is on children and schools and the importance of washing hands with soap, which is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent killer diarrhoeal diseases and pneumonia.

Patty Kostkova, Head of the City eHealth Research Centre, that has created the computer games, which are available on newly launched site Edugames4all, says that the games are an enjoyable and innovative way to increase children awareness and understanding of good hand and food hygiene.

"Rather than simply telling them to wash their hands, the games provide educational entertainment. Our evaluation study with over 1700 children in England, Scotland and those playing the junior game online demonstrated major knowledge improvements in children's understanding that soap can be used to wash away bad bugs."

Patty Kostkova, Head, City e-Health Research Centre

"Children can be agents of change and we wanted to find a fun and inspiring way to get across the importance of handwashing and hygiene. We developed two games, a fast platform game for junior school children allowing playes to find bad bugs and protect good bugs "shrank" into the world of microbes; while a detective game for senior children teaches through investigating cases of infection outbreaks."

The games are available free online at www.edugames4all.org

ENDS

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.