SpineCare Foundation

The SpineCare Foundation is a division of Northcott committed to funding research and educational initiatives that support children with spinal cord disease or injury and their families.

The Foundation’s initiatives include:

  • Coordinating educational activities to share knowledge about spinal disease and disorders in children;
  • Providing support and funding for tertiary scholarships for students who use wheelchairs
  • Funding public health Masters, PhD and postdoctoral research projects to increase the body of knowledge on paediatric spinal injury and disease

Gaming for Health: Paediatric spinal cord injury and dysfunction – Expressions of interest now open

The SpinecCare Foundation is calling for applications to fill a gap in the consumer interactive learning space. A Gaming for Health model is proposed as a novel medium to inspire children and young people with spinal cord injury and dysfunction in building understanding of their own specific health needs.

This expression of interest is now open and closes 5pm EST, Wednesday 25 September 2019.

Project Background

Spinal cord injury (SCI) in childhood is relatively rare but tragic. This catastrophic condition is most often complex and lifelong. A plethora of knowledge and skills are required by the individual to maintain good health and reach potentials of personal well-being, life satisfaction and community involvement. A major challenge within this cohort is the gradual shift in dependence on parents for health coordination and self-care, to independence in managing their own health needs and life-aspirations.

At present, there are no openly available online, interactive learning opportunities for children and young people with acquired spinal cord injury and disease, relating specifically to their health needs. In NSW, Australia, Health education needs of this population are largely met through conventional interventions, such as direct therapy, fact-sheets and the recent initiatives of the SpineCare Foundation (i.e. comic books and podcasts).

In this population, gaming offers a novel approach to knowledge and skill acquisition, in a contemporary, motivating and self-directed environment. The opportunity for socialisation may be an optional built in feature (e.g. multiple players over a shared virtual space). Applications of technologies such as Augmented Reality are of interest.

Target audience of the program

Children and young people with acquired spinal cord injury or disease are to be the greatest beneficiaries of this initiative. Examples of the target audience are:

  1. Children with spinal cord injury or disease aged 7-12 year olds, or part thereof

  2. Children with different types of spinal cord injuries;

    1. Cervical spinal cord injury C1-C8

    2. Thoracic spinal cord injury T1-T12

    3. Lumbar and cauda equina spinal cord injury

  3. Children with spinal cord injuries who use different forms of mobility;

    1. Manual wheelchair

    2. Power wheelchair

    3. Crutches or walkers

Program objectives

The main objective is to create an interactive, learning interface (‘game’) for children and young people with acquired spinal cord injury or disease. It must be accessible to the targeted end-user group and be compatible with a variety of assistive technologies (e.g. screen readers, eye gaze technology, switch scanners).

Engagement with the game will lead to increased health-relevant knowledge specific to spinal cord injury and disease, and may better prepare young people for commonly encountered medical interventions. The game should allow opportunity to test this knowledge through simulation, as well as embody an element of fantasy and fun.

A secondary objective of the program is to enhance self-efficacy of the participants. By way of increasing knowledge and opportunity of practice within the gaming environment, a shift in a locus of control with enhanced empowerment and confidence in the young person [in their own health care management] is anticipated.

Health aspects that may be included in the game:

  • Primary health needs e.g.
    • Knowledge of their spinal cord injury and the health implications
      • Effect of spinal cord injury on motor, sensory and autonomic systems
    • Performing bladder and bowel care (e.g. clean intermittent catheterization)
    • Breathing e.g. nocturnal ventilation
  • Preventative care e.g.
    • Effective wheelchair propulsion
    • Effective secretion clearance
  • Mitigation of secondary complications
    • Managing an autonomic dysreflexic event
    • Managing a urinary tract infection
    • Maintaining joint and muscle range
    • Managing spasms
  • Prescription of equipment and maintenance
    • Attending an equipment trial
    • Regular care of equipment
    • Upgrading and replacing equipment
  • Understanding of commonly encountered medical experiences / interventions
    • Taking medications
    • Scans – MRI, Xray, Dexa
    • Blood tests
    • Urodynamics
    • Operations
    • Specialist medical appointments
  • Engagement and participation
    • Items available / modifications required for participation in recreational activities (e.g. snorkeling, surfing)

The end product will need to present numerous options for a player to choose a ‘character’ that is fitting to their circumstances as well as aesthetic preferences. For example, by selection of a spinal cord injury level (tetraplegia, paraplegia) certain game features would be ‘turned on’ (e.g. a manual wheelchair user who self- catheterises for bladder care will interface with different features of the game compared to a power wheelchair user who has limited use of their hands). The player would also have the option to select what they would ‘look like’ in the game (if applicable).

The capability to record and download data from the game is desirable. This would enable observation of trends in game behaviour to then better target other interventions.

Project Performance Requirements

It is essential that throughout scoping and development phase, consultation occurs with relevant experts from the spinal cord injury community and that elements of the game are co-designed alongside the intended end-users. SpineCare can facilitate collaboration with such parties.

It is a requirement that that the ‘game’ and its constituents reflect best practice and be informed by high quality evidence where available.

Program Funding

The funding offered is in two stages:

Stage 1: Scope and Development of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The offering is at $20,000 in order to achieve proof of concept (e.g. creation of a demo site following scoping and consultation phases) and creation of a proposal for expansion of the MVP.

If selected at stage 1, then:

Stage 2: MVP Expansion to Full Product within Scope. The offering is at $40-70K

The program, in its two staged offering will be funded by The SpineCare Foundation. SpineCare, as a as a subsidiary of Northcott, will offer consultation, links to relevant networks and customers upon request

Program Timeframes

Expressions of interest for this project are now open and close 5pm EST Wednesday 25 September 2019. A selection process by way of short presentation at Northcott’s Head Office in North Parramatta will be conducted in October / November 2019. Award will be finalised by 30 November 2019.

The project is to commence within 3 months of award and be completed not more than 12 months from the commencement date.

Download the program brief and application form here.

Dom’s story
A series of podcasts to support people with Spinal Cord Injuries

Following on the success of the innovative Jumo Health comics (see below), the SpineCare Foundation identified a need to provide an educational resource for adolescents with Spinal Cord Injuries to support them with the transition from child to adult healthcare services and living an independent adult life.

After some investigation, research showed that podcasts are an effective communication channel for health messages within the 18-25 years age group.

In collaboration with Jumo Health, the SpineCare Foundation produced Dom’s story, which is a series of six podcasts about Domonic Freestone who is a C5-6 quadriplegic. In them, Dom openly talks about how his injury occurred, his initial stages of recovery, health and fitness, mental health, relationships, self care, independence and family matters. He doesn’t shy away from any confronting topics.

“I know I would have found something like this really useful when I was first injured and at other points along the journey of my recovery and transition to my ‘new’ life,” Dom said. “So I’m hoping they will be useful for others out there” he added.

Download and listen to the podcasts by accessing through the links below:




Jumo Health comics

As part of its work, the Foundation published two innovative comics in collaboration with Jumo Health, who provide health resources to children and families.

These fun and educational comics teach children, their families and peers about spinal cord injuries. They also offer medical professionals another resource to share with their patients. 

You can read the comics online now by downloading:

Alternatively you can get in touch with us and order your own printed copies of the comics.

SpineCare History

The SpineCare Foundation was founded as the Children’s Spinal Research Foundation in 1981 to source funds in NSW to support research into diseases and disorders of the spine in children.

In 2011 The Foundation hosted an inaugural Conference of Innovation and Practice in Childhood Spinal Conditions.

The Foundation is now a division of Northcott, providing ongoing industry leadership in spine care.

You can read the SpineCare Foundation’s financial statements on the publications and policies section of our website.