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Cancer Control Research

5R44CA086661-03
Rapchak, Barbara R.
@NEWORLD: A VIRTUAL COMMUNITY FOR KIDS WITH CANCER

Abstract

Children with cancer face myriad psychosocial challenges as they try to cope with their condition. The inherent qualities of the Internet- connectivity and interactivity in a media-rich environment-make it a promising tool for addressing these challenges. A comprehensive and scientific understanding of the impact of Internet technology is key to defining its role as an intervention in pediatric healthcare. We propose to develop an Internet-based intervention to help children deal with issues of isolation, fear, anxiety, and decreased selfesteem by providing access to a community of peers in an environment that encourages communication, education, and self-expression. We will evaluate the intervention by studying program effects in alleviating loneliness, anxiety, and stress. In addition, we will examine the value of the intervention as a communication and socialization tool by assessing effects on self-esteem, coping behaviors, and feelings of control over health destiny. Our goal is to keep the child connected to the school during diagnosis and treatment, and to connect the child with a community of peers who are experiencing similar challenges related to illness. In this way, we will use the Intemet as the basis for what we call "social computing" in an integration of technology and social need. PROPOSED COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS: This program will have initial application in pediatric cancer treatment centers, hospitals and schools. However, it also offers numerous vertical market opportunities. Cancer is just one of the many chronic or fatal diseases that affect children. The proposed program may be a useful prototype for expanding Internet-based technology to other chronic childhood diseases. The program may ultimately he made available to children's hospitals via third-party reimbursement from health maintenance organizations and health insurance companies.


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