Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital  in partnership with TELUS , Kids’ Health Links Foundation  (KHLF) and Sheridan Nurseries  today announced the launch of Upopolis , an innovative social networking tool that helps hospital inpatients stay connected to their families, friends and school.
At Holland Bloorview, Upopolis will be championed by Child Life Specialists, who work with clients, their family and other caregivers to help manage stress, pain and anxiety associated with hospitalization. Holland Bloorview is the only children’s rehabilitation hospital in Canada to offer this innovative site to their patients. This program comes just in time for Thanksgiving, a vital time for kids in care to connect with their loved ones.
Created by KHLF and powered by TELUS, Upopolis.com is the only private, secure and trusted online social network designed just for kids in hospital. Upopolis provides the best features of social networking, such as personal profiles, personal blogs, instant chat and child-friendly games. The site also provides unique features to kids in hospital, such as a homework site to stay up-to-date with their schoolwork, links to kid-friendly health and wellness information, and connections to other children with the same condition.
“The average hospital stay at Holland Bloorview is 61 days. For a young person, a stay that long can feel like a lifetime and can lead to feelings of isolation,” says Sheila Jarvis, president and CEO Holland Bloorview. “Upopolis allows kids to stay connected to their friends and families which is extremely important for their healing.”
Through a unique partnership with KHLF, TELUS provides the technology to develop and build Upopolis. TELUS continues to provide site expansion, ongoing access to Upopolis, managed web hosting, application support and maintenance services.
“At TELUS we take pride in finding new and innovative health care solutions for Canadians through the use of technology,” said Paul Lepage, senior vice-president, TELUS Health Solutions. “Upopolis is a terrific example of technology that empowers children in care. It is often difficult for patients to travel outside hospital walls, but with this unique program patients can connect with their friends and families at anytime. We are proud to partner with Holland Bloorview, which will provide growth and expansion within this network to more young patients.”
The generous donation KHLF received from Sheridan Nurseries has allowed them to bring Upopolis to Holland Bloorview. In turn, this donation will help with its initial implementation, oversight and also continue the program development for all connected hospitals across Canada.
“Working with Upopolis has given us the opportunity to keep children connected to their family and friends, during a time they often feel isolated and needing extra support,” said Karl Stensson, president of Sheridan Nurseries. “We are proud to be involved with this innovative concept in children’s health care.”
The online support network was inspired by the hospital experiences of two teenaged friends, Christina Papaevangelou and Katy McDonald. In February 2002, Christina was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at McMaster Children’s Hospital with a life-threatening illness. Shortly after, Katy was diagnosed with cancer and had to be hospitalized for a long period of time at SickKids. Sadly, Katy lost her battle with cancer. However, their friendship and common experiences inspired Christina to explore ways to help kids in care stay connected.
“Ten years ago Upopolis was only a dream, today it has connected many children in care across Canada, with each other and with their friends and loved ones,” said Basile Papaevangelou, chairman and founder of Kids Health Links Foundation. “On behalf of Kids’ Health Links and our partners, we are thrilled to launch Upopolis at yet another hospital in Canada and for the first time at a children’s rehabilitation facility. Today’s launch at Holland Bloorview means we are one step closer to bringing this program to every Canadian children’s hospital.”
KHLF and TELUS launched the first Upopolis program in 2007 at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton and since then it has expanded to other hospitals and health organizations across Canada, including B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver; IWK Health Centre in Halifax; CHEO in Ottawa; SickKids in Toronto, Ste. Justine in Montreal and Lutherwood in Waterloo. By adapting the TELUS technology, the Upopolis team has been able to meet the specific needs of each hospital, whether adding French language capabilities or information specific to mental health.