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Mobile game to treat anxiety disorders in children



The UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the use of a video game to treat paediatric anxiety.

BfB Labs has received the regulatory approval for Lumi Nova, a mobile aimed children with anxiety disorders aged seven to 12.

Lumi Nova has been funded by NHS England via the NHS Improvement’s SBRI Healthcare programme and developed in partnership with the Anxiety and Depression in Young People (AnDY) Research Clinic at the University of Reading, and MindTech UK.

The game aims to revolutionise mental health interventions for children helping them to overcome anxiety using an evidence-based therapeutic approach.

The intervention draws on “proven immersive therapy” which is “the gold standard for treating anxiety, delivered through an engaging mobile game”.

In a small-scale pilot conducted in March 2020, Lumi Nova demonstrated the highest levels of safety and is a cost-effective way to treat the symptoms of anxiety in real-world settings.

It is estimated that as many as seven out of 10 children with an anxiety disorder in the UK did not have access to evidence-based treatment, before the onset of COVID-19.

Childhood anxiety disorders include generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobias.

Anxiety can have a huge impact on young people’s lives, which can include difficulties with school attendance, socialising, and participating in daily activities.

Anxiety disorders are associated with substantial disability and longer-term mental health consequences.

Lumi Nova is designed for use within NHS integrated care systems and among clinical commissioning groups, schools and local authorities.

Dr Claire Hill, clinical psychologist and postdoctoral researcher at The University of Reading says: “We must act urgently to mobilise evidence-based interventions to tackle anxiety in our most vulnerable children and young people at this extraordinary time of crisis and particularly now that schools have reopened.

“Untreated anxiety can lead to depression, self-harm, and other life-long consequences. Lumi Nova is an engaging game that has demonstrated safety and is an important exemplar as the first MHRA approved mobile game for paediatric anxiety that gamifies exposure – the key component of CBT, the gold standard for treating anxiety – and should be considered for implementation by schools, local authorities and in routine clinical care.”

SBRI Healthcare is a programme that supports the development of new innovations which meet known NHS challenges. The Small Business Research Initiative for Healthcare (SBRI) programme runs competitions for innovations identified as an unmet need.

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