A new app that encourages people to act safely when someone in their family or community catches COVID-19 has been launched by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in collaboration with software developer Pixel Impact.
Users of the COVID Challenge app take the form of an interactive quiz challenge to a series of colorfully illustrated scenarios and get a choice of ways to respond. The topics covered are practical and comprehensive, including how to communicate with someone with COVID symptoms, how to share a bathroom when isolating yourself and how to handle food to limit the risk of the virus spreading .
“We hope to attract a young, tech-savvy generation of users who will take the game as an entertaining challenge while at the same time gaining useful knowledge that will bring about behavioral change,” said Abiy Tamrat, medical innovation coordinator at MSF.
The concept for the app comes from a quiz challenge game MSF developed in 2019 during the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help patients and their families manage Ebola and to combat misinformation about the disease to work.
“Misinformation and rumors are also widespread about COVID, and our goal with the app is to prevent that,” says Tamrat. “It worked for Ebola and we hope it will work for COVID as well.” The health messages presented in the app are based on MSF medical protocols and recommendations from the World Health Organization.
“We have tested the Arabic version here in northern Lebanon with the Syrian refugee community,” said Mireille Zreika, MSF adviser Mireille Zreika, “and they find it challenging but also enjoyable. We often use interactive quizzes and games in our health promotion activities, but this is the first time you are contacting them on a phone. It’s a very effective way of sharing knowledge. ”
Tamrat envisages that the COVID Challenge app will be used by families and communities in the more than 70 countries worldwide where MSF operates – and beyond. The app is available for both Android and iOS systems and is free to use; once downloaded, it can be played offline, making it accessible to people with no ordinary internet connection.
One feature in the app reads the quiz questions aloud so that they can be used by people with visual impairments or who cannot read. It is currently available in English, French, Arabic and Spanish, and additional languages are planned.
Tamrat believes that digital educational tools such as the COVID Challenge app are particularly timely and have great potential to spread health messages and enable people to take care of themselves and their communities.
“Digital transformation is taking place,” says Tamrat. ‘Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a shift in the use of digital technology in healthcare, not out of choice, but necessarily. At the same time, more and more people are seeking knowledge digitally. Educational interactive programs are one way to provide this information. I believe the potential for using these types of medical care platforms will be huge. ”