Handheld game makes measuring blood sugar fun

The Didget game helps remind kids with diabetes to test their blood sugar level.

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: Every year, thousands of young people are diagnosed with diabetes. It can be tough to motivate those kids to test their blood sugar levels. But there's a new device that could make testing a little more tolerable. Marketplace's Caitlan Carroll reports.


Caitlan Carroll: Jessy Holen is 12 years old. She has diabetes. About a dozen times a day, Jessy pricks her finger to test her blood sugar level. If it's too high or low, that can be a big health risk.

Jessy Holen: It's just hard to keep up with my testing because I like to be outside and I just forget about it sometimes cause I don't want to but I know it's something that I have to do.

To make testing more fun, the drug company Bayer is selling a new glucose meter called the Didget. It syncs with the Nintendo DS. You know, like a Gameboy. The Didget costs about $75. After Jessy tests her blood sugar level on the Didget meter, she plugs it into her Nintendo DS.

Holen And then it's just uploading it.

She gets points every time she tests, and also for having a good blood sugar level. Those points can be used in games.

Holen: And then you get to just unlock more stuff with the more better numbers you get.

Jessy's mom, Beth, says the Didget helps keep her daughter on track.

Beth Holen: That's a huge incentive with kids being as techno-savvy and as video game related as they are now, because it will help them want to do it -- especially with the younger ones I think.

Diabetes care is a huge market, and the Didget is just one of several products that pairs good habits with gaming. Aaron Kowalski is scientist at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation:

Aaron Kowalski: If we can intervene and intervene early with good tools that will improve glucose control, not only will it help the patient but I think it will help health care costs.

More people are being diagnosed everyday, especially children. If Bayer establishes a relationship with kids through the Didget device, it may have these customers for life. Les Funtleyder is a health care strategist at Miller Tabak:

Les Funtleyder: Once people are comfortable and it's successful, they very rarely switch unless they absolutely have to. So it does become a question of customer loyalty.

If these products catch on with kids, winning that video game might mean more than a high score--it could mean a longer life.

In Los Angeles, I'm Caitlan Carroll for Marketplace.

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