New mHealth Study Gives Kids a Chance to Learn From Video Games

Magellan Healthcare and Mightier, an mHealth startup spun out of research at Boston Children’s and Harvard Medical School, are launching a program aimed at using video games to help children living with behavioral health issues.

mHealth strategies

Magellan Health is launching a new study to determine how mHealth games can help children with mental health concerns.

The Arizona-based managed care company’s behavioral and specialty health business is partnering with Mightier, a Boston-based video game developer spun out of research at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The study, involving some 200 members of commercial health plans, is backed by a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Connected health and video games have a long history together, with a number of companies, games and even a Boston-based international conference aimed at helping children and teens with a variety of issues, including behavioral health challenges, care management for chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer and concussion treatment.

This latest study takes aim at children affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which has reduced the availability of in-person care and pushed many kids indoors and in isolation. It looks to use video games to help children living with ADHD, anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and other concerns improve their emotional regulation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic set off a wave of mental health issues for children across the country,” Matthew Miller, senior vice president of behavioral health for Magellan Healthcare, said in a press release. “Even with the availability of a vaccine, stress and anxiety caused by the uncertainty in their lives will linger, at a time when availability of mental health services is minimal, particularly in rural communities. This study’s goal is to validate that digital tools like Mightier can improve health outcomes, lower the cost of care and increase access to mental healthcare.”

“Teaching children emotional regulation, a core life skill, is a powerful insulator against stress and symptoms of many common pediatric mental health disorders,” Jason Kahn, Mightier’s co-founder and chief science officer, said in a release. “This study has the potential to advance pediatric mental services for millions of families.”

Company officials say clinical trials conducted at Boston Children’s and Harvard over the past several years have produced video games that have helped children reduce emotional outbursts by 62 percent and oppositional behavior by 40 person over12 weeks, while also reducing family stress by almost 20 percent.

The company partnered with Magellan Healthcare last year on a project aimed at using video games to help children living with Autism. Results of this study are due soon.

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