- »New Zealand to Test Gambling Treatment App Manaaki
New Zealand to Test Gambling Treatment App Manaaki
Gambling is a part of human nature. Many people enjoy taking risks. For some, however, gambling can become a problem. There are behaviors and signs that a person may be losing control of their ability to see gambling as entertainment, to prevent harm from gambling.
Programs across the world – particularly in Australia – have long focused on various ways to detect and minimize gambling harm. There are videos and checklists, hotlines and numerous forms of therapy, but they all rely on a human component.
What if a mobile app could handle some of those situations? A New Zealand group believes the answer may be in an app called Manaaki.
What is Manaaki?
Manaaki is a mobile app designed by technology gurus and researchers at the National Institute for Health Innovation at Auckland University. They coordinated with Hapai Te Hauora, a problem gambling prevention organization, and Deakin University of Australia for additional information.
In fact, the creators based the app on the Deakin University online program called GAMBLINGLESS.
The hope for the app is to provide gambling treatment intervention in a new way, one that offers more help to a greater number of people. Traditional methods have been unable to reach many people with gambling problems. This app aims to assess the “effectiveness and acceptability of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) delivered via mobile app for people with self-reported gambling problems.”
Its creators put six modules on the app, each with unique intervention modes that use everything from videos to avatars. The goal is to increase consumer engagement and inform via a variety of different learning styles.
The New Zealand Health and Disability Ethics Committee approved the study.
Testing Participants Wanted
The creators and researchers of Manaaki want to recruit 284 people in New Zealand who are 18 years of age or older, can download the app to a smartphone, understand English, and seek help for gambling issues. They also must be willing to participate in meetings to provide follow-up information to help the research.
The specialists will monitor the app’s usage for frequency, expenses, willingness to learn and change, and engagement with the app.
Participants will be able to talk to researchers before participating in the study if they choose. The entire trial will last 12 weeks. Those who want to continue using Manaaki after the study will be free to do so.
The project surrounding Manaaki has many goals, but the primary one is to reduce the severity of gambling symptoms.
They also hope to reduce gambling urges, the time and frequency of gambling, the amount of money spent on gambling. Further, they want to use the app to make help more readily available but also to make gamblers in need of help feel that they are more willing and able to change.
Researchers will use the gambling symptom severity scale (G-SAS) to assess problems and for study purposes. This puts gamblers in several categories, with 0-30 being mild to moderate and 31-40 being severe.
For the People
The Manaaki app is available in the Apple and Google Play stores online, open to anyone at no cost.
As its introductory sentence, it reads: “Have you been thinking of how you might stop gambling altogether or cut back on your gambling activities?”
It boasts of the following features:
- Personalization to the person’s needs and habits
- Six stages of gambling help from understanding to quitting gambling altogether
- Self-help tools and videos
- Journal to track habits and progress
- Forum to give and receive support and strategies
- Webchat capabilities with counsellors
The app store description notes that Manaaki is being tested using a randomized trial, and users receive more information when they download the app. If the person chooses to be a part of the study, they will receive $60 for answering three sets of questions over the next 12 weeks.
Lockdown Presents Opportunity
While this project has been ongoing for some time, the coronavirus pandemic lockdown provided a unique opportunity to offer help to people who may be in more vulnerable positions. Quite a few people turned to online gambling – more from Australia than New Zealand – during the quarantine months. But in addition, as casinos and pubs reopen, people may find gambling irresistible.
Stephanie Erick, Kaiwhakahaere of Hapai Te Hauora, explained, “It is really important that we can take steps to provide other forms of support, and in unprecedented times when gambling is in promotion, developing mobile services makes so much sense. Communities are long overdue a suite of support tools and platforms that can reach more people and help them before their harmful gambling becomes problem gambling.”