About The Project

The BrightHearts project is interdisciplinary research collaboration between artist and interaction-designer Dr George Khut and Dr Angie Morrow at the Kids Rehab Department, of The Children’s Hospital Westmead, in New South Wales, Australia. Research team members include Dr Melissa Yogui-Watanabe (research assistant), Caroline Dale (qualitative researcher), Dr Angelo Fraietta (electronics and software), Jason McDermott (visualisation software) and Frank Maguire (electronics and industrial design).

The project’s aim is to design and evaluate the efficacy of a heart-rate controlled interactive artwork to assist in the management and reduction of stress and anxiety experienced by children undergoing painful, recurrent clinical procedures. Currently in its design-research phase, the project will piloted in early 2012, followed by a clinical trial in the second half of 2012.

The target population for this study is children aged between seven to eighteen who undergo painful recurrent procedures such as multiple deep tissue injections (Botox and Baclofen pump-change clinics), veinipuncture (renal and oncology departments), dental procedures and burn dressing.

Many children with chronic conditions undergo repeated painful procedures. The recurrent nature of these procedures can result in a build-up of anticipatory anxiety, causing significant distress to the children, exacerbating the perceived intensity of the painful stimuls, which can also lead to increased vasoconstriction that can further complicate certain procedures (i.e. veinipucture). If left un-addressed – the distress and anxiety associated with these procedures can lead to avoidance behaviours that may stay with an individual into adulthood.

The project has received funding from James Kirby Foundation (medical grant for design and clinical trials) and the Australian Network for Art and Technology and the Australia Council for the Arts (2011 Synapse artists residency grant), and is being developed in three distinct stages:

  1. Design Research phase (observe clinics, interview kids and clinicians, prototype interactive devices etc.;
  2. Pilot Tests (design and test interaction protocols – how to introduce children to the work, how to incorporate it into their procedure experience); and
  3. Clinical Trial (measure and assess the efficacy of the device in clinical settings)

For the design phase, I’m using my ANAT Synapse residency to observe interactions between staff, children and carers, test out interaction ideas, design new bio-sensing hardware and biofeedback software, and undertake qualitative research into the experiences of children, carers and staff, in collaboration with Masters Psychology student Caroline Dale, and volunteer researcher Dr Melissa Yogui-Watanabe.

I’ve been working on this project with Dr Angie Morrow since late 2010, when we applied to the Kirby foundation for funding for this project. Most of the first half of this year we have been busy working on ethics applications that are required for this type of research, and recruiting prospective PhD candidates to administer and write up the clinical trial, and conduct a Systematic Review of related research (managing children’s anxiety and stress associated with painful recurrent procedures).

About the Children’s Hospital at Westmead (CHW) and Kids Rehab

The Children’s Hospital at Westmead is a world renowned centre of excellence providing tertiary level care for sick children. Kids Rehab is one of the largest paediatric rehabilitation units in Australia, caring for over 2300 children and young people in NSW who have a range of disabilities including Acquired Brain Injury, Cerebral Palsy, Spinal Cord Injury and Disease, Spina Bifida and Limb Deficiency. Kids Rehab supports and assists children and young people to reach their full potential in all areas of development. This involves assessment, recommendations for interventions that help to restore functions that are lost after trauma or disease, follow up review assessments and prevention strategies for problems that may occur. CHW is notable for its inclusion of the arts across many aspects of its operations: from its renowned art collection curated by Joanna Capon to its many youth arts programs (“Operation Art” and “Youth Arts”); the highly successful “Starlight Express Room”.

Dr Angie Morrow (MB BAO BCh MRCPI FRACP) is a staff specialist at Kids Rehab, The Children’s Hospital Westmead. As a paediatrician with special interests in disability and palliative care she has over 15 years experience of working with children with chronic illness. She is currently Head of the Brain Injury Service at Kids Rehab and Senior Lecturer with the Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, Sydney University. Dr Morrow has extensive research experience and is actively involved in the Kids Research Institute.

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