A new app that helps girls become more physically active won first prize in a national competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Co-created by Duquesne University Professor Dr. Melissa Kalarchian, Frolic inspires girls age 7-12 with inclusive and active play options and encourages parents to support their daughters' healthy habits.

"About one of every three girls struggles with obesity," said Kalarchian, associate dean for research at Duquesne's School of Nursing. "Play can serve as a great way to boost physical activity and carries additional benefits for girls, such as socialization. By becoming more active, Frolic can help girls develop healthy habits into adulthood."

Kalarchian, along with Carnegie Mellon University Learning Science Professor Jessica Hammer, created the app in response to HHS's Office of Women's Health Challenge "Shape of Health - An Obesity Prevention Game." The goal of the challenge was to create an interactive video game with a focus on weight control and sharing positive health messages with women and girls. The researchers' work is featured at obesityjournal.org.

"Physical activity among children and especially girls has been inadequate," Kalarchian said. "Only 10 percent of girls meet the U.S. government's recommended daily activity guidelines, as compared to nearly 30 percent of boys."

The Frolic app initiates time for play by sending a notification to a parent's phone. If it is a good time to play, the child can then input some basic information about her surroundings, including whether she will be playing indoors or outdoors, the size of the space available, if she has any friends present, and if so, their abilities to move quickly.

The situational data gathered each time a girl can play helps Frolic recommend a few game ideas appropriate for her situation. Each game recommendation comes with step-by-step illustrated instructions to support girls of all abilities and enable everyone to have a great play experience.

"Many mobile games focused on physical activity tend to be screen heavy," Kalarchian said. "Frolic actually moves girls away from the phone or laptop so they can play without being in front of a screen."

Frolic is also designed to encourage parents to support their girls' healthy habits. Research shows that parents are less likely to encourage their daughters to be physically active than compared to the encouragement they show their sons. The app displays their daughter's activity data and encourages parents to have productive conversations with their girls about physical activity.

The creation of the app reflects Duquesne's commitment to promoting health equity, as the University has a legacy of working to improve health in the region.

Frolic is available for free in the App Store.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 8,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The Universitys academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.

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March 24, 2021