How do we get health games to help millions of people?

May 26, 2011, 5:51 AM, Posted by RWJF Blog Team

By Brian Quinn, assistant vice president, Research and Evaluation,

I attended the Games for Health Conference last week in Boston.  It was a great introduction to the gaming field and all of the work that’s being done in this space to try and improve healthy behaviors and increase healthy outcomes.  In addition to several of our Health Games Research grantees, I saw interesting presentations and demos on Kairos Labs’, HopeLab’s Zamzee and Firsthand Technology’s game to promote better oral health habits among children.

One of the themes running throughout the conference is now that we’ve got all of this experience and evidence about how to use games to improve health, what are the next steps for the field?  That is, how does Games for Health get taken to scale to have an even broader impact?  The field has a lot of demonstrated success, energy and activity behind it, but health gamers face a unique challenge.  Successful health games need to simultaneously meet three requirements: 1) they need to make sure that the games are fun and entertaining; 2) they need to make sure that they have a real and measurable impact on health; and 3) they need to be marketable and revenue-generating.   Tackling all three goals simultaneously creates a unique set of challenges. The good news is that the field seems energized to take it on.

As we think about how to take the next step, the field needs to first consider what factors are necessary and sufficient for success.  Is it more research?  Is it better connections with providers?  Is it better inroads with non-gamers who would benefit from health games, such as seniors?  What can we learn from other fields?  What thoughts do you have?  How do we get health games to help millions of people?

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.