The ability to video chat with family and friends significantly reduces stress levels and speeds up the healing process in hospitalised children, according to a study conducted at the University of California, Davis in the United States. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: Three-year-old Malia Ramirez suffers from Ulcerative Colitis, a painful inflammatory bowel disease that has forced her into hospital for an extended period. SOUNDBITE (English) MALIA RAMIREZ, 3-YEAR-OLD PATIENT AT HOSPITAL, SAYING: "It's been good at the hospital playing in the room and colouring and playing games and playing with toys." But Malia admits it's sometimes scary in hospital, and that's when the nurse hands her an iPad. SOUNDBITE (English) MALIA RAMIREZ, 3-YEAR-OLD PATIENT AT HOSPITAL, SAYING: "I talk about my day with Daddy." (DAD VIA VIDEO - "HI PRINCESS / MALIA SAYS "HI DADDY" That quick chat with Dad reduces Malia's stress levels, which researchers say, will help her recover faster. At UC Davis in California, assistant professor Madan Dharmar and his team have studied the effects of such devices on children. They found that those with access to technology that allow them to communicate with family are in better emotional shape than children who don't. SOUNDBITE (English) MADAN DHARMAR, ASSISTANT PRORESSOR OF RESEARCH, UC DAVIS, SAYING: "It puts them at ease and it reduces their anxiety and stress level so they can better heal in this environment which can be pretty challenging for these kids." The hospital has set up a program called Family Link in which they hand out iPads and laptops to kids so they can interact with loved ones who can't always be at the hospital. The study showed that the level of stress decreased by 37 percent for children on the Family Link program. Dr. Thomas Nesbitt, Vice Chancellor of Strategic Technologies at UC Davis, says the more a child communicates with their family the easier it is for doctors and nurses to care for them. SOUNDBITE (English) DR. THOMAS NESBITT, VICE CHANCELLOR FOR STRATEGIC TECHNOLOGIES AND ALLIANCES, UC DAVIS, SAYING: "And if we can reduce that stress by bringing in family members and by allowing that child to sort of leave the world of the sick for 10 minutes or an hour or two hours, or participate with their classmates, that is an important element of the healing environment we want to create here." And that says Nesbitt is the ultimate goal - to keep kids happy so they can get better faster. As for Malia, she wants to go home. But she says, for now, a video chat kiss from Dad is better than no kiss at all.