News

Board game created by students helps fight rabies in Southeast Asia


27 September 2013

The United Nations is partnering with the University of Sydney to manufacture a board game that educates children in Asia about the risk of rabies, a disease that kills over 30,000 people each year in Asia.

The game was created by a group of postgraduate students from the University's Faculty of Veterinary Science. 

"The best teaching tools have to be fun and we have delivered the goods with Dogsville, a board game where players have to overcome challenges in order to win the honour of raising the best dog in the village," said Dr Navneet Dhand, a senior lecturer in Veterinary Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University, speaking before World Rabies Day on 28 September.

"We are delighted that, after testing in rural schools in the Philippines, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has decided to partner with the University to produce versions of the game."

The other partners are the World Organisation for Animal Health, the European Union and the Australian government's overseas aid program, AusAid. 

The game was designed and developed by students within the University's Masters of Veterinary Public Health Management program. They used their skills in developing targeted health messages to create the role-playing game set in an imaginary village. As the players navigate its streets, the users learn about preventive measures against rabies, including responsible pet ownership.

The game is targeted at the most vulnerable age group, children younger than 15 years. The World Health Organization reports that 40 percent of people bitten by suspected rabid animals belong to this age group because of their close relationships with dogs.
Drawing, music, drama and science are all part of the multifaceted game, which was conceived and produced by postgraduate students Robert Barwell, Sarah Jayme, Susan Thomson and Anke Wiethoelter, during a course taught by J├╝rgen Oschadleus.

"The game will be distributed to hundreds of Southeast Asian schools, in Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, with plans for versions for Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar," said Dr Dhand, who is academic supervisor of the Veterinary Public Health Management program.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has a goal of eradicating rabies by 2020. The organisation has released a Call to Action on Dog Rabies Elimination and the education of children is seen as playing an essential role in the campaign.

"Most of the games will be launched at several events during the countries' celebration of World Rabies Day."

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, where the game was first trialled, copies continue to be distributed, including to the Department of Agriculture in 10 provinces with the highest incidence of rabies and to schools, NGOs and veterinary associations in Manila.

"We are encouraging these regions to pre-test the game and if they are interested, they can localise the board game in their own dialect," Dr Dhand said.

Dogsville was developed as part of the project management course within the Veterinary Public Health Management postgraduate program. Integrating scientific skill and leadership competence, the program has produced 63 veterinary public health graduates, many of whom have established themselves as leaders in their field.


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Verity Leatherdale: (02) 9351 4312, 0403 067 342 or verity.leatherdale@sydney.edu.au