Date of release: Monday, July 29, 2013

Comic books on chronic painComic book superheroes are being used by university researchers to help children understand more about older relatives who suffer from chronic pain.

Experts from the School of Health & Social Care, working with academics at four other universities, found that witnessing a parent or older relative in pain can be distressing and even confusing for children, who are often unable to understand or empathise with what is happening.

Researchers also discovered that parents and grandparents can feel angry and frustrated by the effect chronic pain has on their everyday lives, such as forcing them to cancel family outings or restrict time with children.

Academics at Greenwich, Teesside, Dundee, Aberdeen and Northumbria universities worked with Medikidz, an international company which produces award-winning comics. These feature Marvel-inspired superheroes who put medical information into plain words which children can understand. Medikidz has distributed more than two million copies of their comics worldwide to 50 countries and in 28 different languages.

The university's Professor of Nursing, Pat Schofield, has been studying pain management for nearly a quarter of a century. In the project, she led a team which carried out focus groups and collected information about people's experiences of living with chronic pain.

Professor Schofield says: "We found that adults cannot easily explain their pain to children or grandchildren, and so it is difficult for children to understand why their parents or grandparents cannot play on the floor or run around or pick them up. So this is a welcome book of information which can help explain these issues to the very young, and in a fun and exciting way."

The comic is one of the products arising from a collaboration between the university partners in the UK Research Council-funded £1.2 million EOPIC (Engaging with Older People and Their Carers to Develop Interventions for the Self-management of Chronic Pain) Project.

The story, What's Up with Moira's Grandad: Medikidz Explains Chronic Pain, portrays a typical scenario, which involves a child not understanding why their grandparent has suddenly cancelled their time together. The child is left upset, thinking the grandparent simply isn't bothered – while the grandparent is frustrated at having felt forced to cancel due to difficulty in coping with chronic pain.

Teesside University's Professor Denis Martin, who led the project, adds: "In the story the child is taken on a journey through the human body, with the Medikidz superheroes explaining about chronic pain and how it impacts on someone's life. The happy conclusion shows the child with a better understanding of their grandparent's situation."

Story by Public Relations

Picture: One of the pages in the Medikidz comic.