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Witnessing a parent or older relative in pain can be distressing and even confusing for a child unable to empathise or comprehend what is happening. And in turn, grandparents or older relatives 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 grandchildren.

Now comic book superheroes are being used in an innovative way to help children understand more about older relatives suffering from chronic pain.

Teesside University Professor Denis Martin has been working with Medikidz and academics at the universities of Dundee, Aberdeen, Greenwich and Northumbria to use comics to help children understand what the older adult with chronic pain is experiencing.

Medikidz is an international company which produces award-winning comics featuring Marvel inspired superheroes to put medical information into plain words which children can understand. They have distributed over two million copies of their comics worldwide, to 50 countries in 28 different languages.

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

Medikidz already produces material to explain to children about their own medical conditions, but working with the EOPIC team, they focused on material to inform a child about the older relative’s condition.

The book - 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 time they’d planned to spend with them. The child is left upset, thinking the grandparent simply isn’t bothered - while the grandparent is frustrated and angry at having felt forced to cancel due to difficulty in coping with chronic pain.

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