On Their Own Terms: Helping Kids Understand Medical Issues
PRA Health Sciences
PRA Health Sciences

As part of our new Center for Pediatric Clinical Development initiative, we're excited to announce our partnership with Jumo, a global health care education company with offices in New York, London, and Sydney. Founded by Dr. Kate Hersov, who wanted to alleviate the fear and uncertainty of children that often accompanies a clinical diagnosis, Jumo creates comic books, videos, podcasts, and apps that help children and their families better understand and manage their health and wellness.

Jumo logo
Jumo is an award-winning provider of educational health care information and resources for children, families, and caregivers.

As part of our new Center for Pediatric Clinical Development initiative, we’re excited to announce our partnership with Jumo, a global health care education company with offices in New York, London, and Sydney. Founded by Dr. Kate Hersov, who wanted to alleviate the fear and uncertainty of children that often accompanies a clinical diagnosis, Jumo creates comic books, videos, podcasts, and apps that help children and their families better understand and manage their health and wellness.

We recently had a chance to talk with Dr. Hersov about Jumo.

Tell us about Jumo and why you started it?

Jumo educates children on complicated medical information in fun, age-appropriate, and culturally sensitive ways. Our signature comic book line uses superheroes, the Medikidz, to explain difficult medical concepts, while our videos and podcasts provide complimentary experiential learning from actual families in their words.

The idea came to be when I was a physician working in pediatrics and saw the anxiety ordering a simple x-ray caused in my patient. I was frustrated by the lack of engaging education for my young patients. It was staggering that there were no resources that could explain to these children what was happening to them, at their level of understanding. And anything that did exist was for parents.

So, together with a colleague, we set out on a mission to revolutionize children’s health by empowering young people with engaging medical education, in their language and at their level. Our mission was to create a global community of children who were informed, empowered, and health-aware.

That was 8 years ago and today we have offices here in London, New York, and Sydney. We have collaborated with thousands of pediatricians, patient advocacy groups, patients and their families, and worked with hundreds of global health care companies like Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, and Pfizer. To date, we have distributed over five million comic books worldwide!

Jumo is committed to creating innovative approaches to reliable children’s health education and empowering young people with knowledge about their own health and the health of those around them. In turn, we are dedicated to supporting families as we encourage them to think, discuss, and understand health issues. Through all of this, we are aiming to build the world’s first globally accessible brand for children’s health. We believe in the important role patient centricity has in enhancing shared decision-making, patient activation, and the overall patient experience.

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What are you most proud of about Jumo?

I am most proud of the impact that we have had on the lives of young people around the world. It is so gratifying to receive the feedback from families that talk about the difference our products have made on their lives.

We get to see this firsthand too, because what started off with comic books and superheroes, has now evolved into multimedia, apps, and games. We also bring our superheroes to life with the brave souls who don the white LYCRA costumes when we host disease awareness days, school programs, and hospital visits!

I am also proud of our global reach and the scope of our work – we have published hundreds of titles, in 30 languages across 50 countries! For example, recent partnerships have included: delivering education to young people affected by HIV living in Southern Africa; a three-part comic series on Asthma endorsed by more than 10 leading respiratory advocacy groups and professional bodies including CHEST, which is distributed across the United States; a title on “Medikidz Explain Dementia,” distributed throughout Australia to assist young people in understanding this disease that may be affecting an older loved one; a school program in the U.K. that educates primary school children about how their eyes work and the importance of regular eye tests; and in Germany, a Type 1 Diabetes Augmented Reality mobile app that combines digital components with traditional paper books.

We know pediatric clinical trials are traditionally designed for adults—how do you try to inform/educate about pediatric clinical trials in age-appropriate ways?

We are storytellers. We also believe that education begets better outcomes. We rarely talk with our young participants about what they are going through – yet we want them to be good, compliant patients. Jumo ensures that study protocols and documents are also prepared in ways the target participants can understand – we accomplish this through educational comic books about clinical trials generally, their condition, activity books, and visual study schedules that children can relate to. This approach addresses – among other things – informed assent.

Moreover, the pediatric patient population represents a vulnerable subgroup of potential clinical trial participants requiring special measures to protect their rights, their dignity, and their welfare. Although they are not treated as autonomous decision-makers, pediatric patients have the same basic rights as adults. This means that sponsors, investigators, and parents must respect their growing decision-making capacities and involve them in discussions about their health and participation in a clinical trial. Most importantly, the dissent of a child capable of understanding the information presented to them should be honored.

In pediatric studies, a triad exists between the investigator, parents, and child, which requires special attention in the informed consent process. The child should be included in the decision-making process to the extent possible depending on their age and maturity. However, there exists a great chasm between this necessity of patient empowerment and the available patient engagement tools currently being used by the industry.

We believe the main problem is one that even we adults struggle with – this human body of ours is complicated, as is a trial process! The challenge is, how do you convey complex information in language that is easy to understand, and how do you do this while keeping a child engaged?

I believe one of the keys to our success has been using the power of narrative, and embracing the comic book format and superhero genre in many of our publications – it’s a fantastic medium for spanning age and culture, works brilliantly for low literacy because of the high graphical content, and is immediately engaging and empowering!

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How do you use comic books, mobile apps, and games to reach and educate children and caregivers about various medical conditions? Why do you think these methods are effective?

Our young audience is so often the early adopter of innovation and as such, we have to be too! At Jumo we are now using gaming platforms, augmented and virtual reality, and we constantly refine our digital reading platform to create effective engagement and education experiences for children.

As patient engagement becomes increasingly tied to patient experience, the role of technology must also evolve. It has a unique and relevant part to play in engaging patients in a pediatric environment, as it can more efficiently deliver relevant services to children in many different age groups. Now, pediatric patients are likely more comfortable with technology than the hospital staff! Technology also forms part of their social network and support mechanism, as well as being a prominent part of their everyday life, so you can deliver the educational experience right to their fingertips.

How do you engage the larger medical community in developing your materials?

Our approach is quite unique here. Notwithstanding our staff—comprised of medical doctors, those with advanced degrees in public health, veterans in health care media and tech, and an active medical advisory board—the way in which we create our content ensures we are current and relevant.

In developing our programs, we bring the entire stakeholder community together. Our content is always peer-reviewed, endorsed by patient advocacy groups, and includes a real patient protagonist to help explain the story in a relatable way. This approach places credibility and collaboration at the pinnacle and as such, has made Jumo one of the world’s most endorsed organizations by the medical community.

Why an exclusive partnership with PRA?

At Jumo we are passionate about delivering meaningful patient-centric content to pediatrics and we can see that PRA shares in this commitment. With PRA’s new Center for Pediatric Clinical Development we can together bring innovation to pediatric clinical trial design and implementation and facilitate patient recruitment.

As exclusive partners, we can chart new grounds together with the same vested interest in innovation, improved outcomes, and enhancing the patient experience. Combining PRA’s leading pediatric trial expertise with Jumo’s global narrative and link with disease stakeholders, make it a perfect partnership.

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What do you see on the horizon for Jumo?

Our ambition is to build Jumo into the world’s first global brand for children’s health – so what’s on the horizon is a lot of hard work! Later this year we are launching our enterprise platform called JumoConnect, a repository of all our mixed-media content for use by hospital systems and payors. In the hospitals, this information can be accessed at the bedside and after discharge, and for the payors we integrate directly into their wellness platforms. We are developing a mobile application for children to drive better disease management and building a “condition map” so that young people affected by a medical illness can be reassured that “they are not alone,” layering Jumo-branded content alongside curated content. The goal is to lay the foundation to create a platform that educates and supports a young person throughout their patient journey.

We also will evolve the types of content we create and widen our net to capture transitional age patients, from preventative health care to mental health and substance use disorder. The goal in all our programs is to create a safe place for peer-to-peer, experiential learning so that young people, who may not otherwise be engaged, can learn from each other’s experiences.

We want to be accessible to children, whether it’s on their phone or a tablet, in their doctor’s surgery, on the web, in the classroom or at the patient bedside – or even when the Medikidz characters are smiling up at you from your sticking plasters or your fracture cast!

One of my questions as a child, perhaps due to my fascination with medicine, was where were the theme parks that took you on rides through the human body? That would be an adventure – zooming down the blood vessels, inside the heart – so perhaps there needs to be a Jumo theme park coming in the future!