Let the games begin

I haven't posted in longer than I had intended - too much work and too much vacation. But I'm back and interested in talking about what is going on in healthcare and gaming. I had no idea!A few months back I met Doug Goldstein at a conference and he introduced me to the idea of games and health through his company Gaming4Health. Check out his site which is rich in material on this exciting space. Then in late May I read that the venerable Robert Wood Johnson Foundation had awarded $2 million in grants to fund 12 research studies through its Health Games Research program. Intrigued I wanted to learn more.

The theory is that employing interactive games as part of the treatment paradigm in certain health situations may lead to significantly better outcomes. The funded studies will use a range of technologies to gauge the effectiveness of digital games on improving health. Here are some examples:

  • Stroke patients will use Wii and EyeToy to assess whether they help in regaining motor skills. (University of South Carolina)
  • Children with cystic fibrosis will test a breath biofeedback video game to determine whether it improves their self-administration of inhaled medicines, engagement in respiratory exercises and awareness of their respiratory status may also be useful for children and adults with asthma and other forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. (University of Vermont, School of Medicine)
  • Type 2 diabetics (18 and older) will use online mobile minigames to learn how to estimate carbohydrates and calories in food portions, which should help them to attain better blood sugar control. (University of Washington, School of Medicine)
  • College freshmen will participate in BloomingLife: The Skeleton Chase, a mystery that unfolds over eight weeks, and incorporates physical and mental challenges. It is an alternative reality game designed to promote physical activity and healthy lifestyles. (Indiana University, School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation)
  • Overweight children (9 to 17) will use either Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) or a pedometer to test which leads to better outcomes such as enjoyment, body mass index and body composition. (Maine Medical Center)

What fertile ground for pharma - and everyone interested in health outcomes - to explore. The idea of combining fun with health makes all the sense in the world...if it works.