Pioneering Health Games

    • March 4, 2012

Investments in Health Games

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation was an early investor in the health games space in 2004 with its grant to the Games for Health Project and has invested more than $9 million in this growing field. RWJF saw games as a promising but unconventional area for exploration, with the potential to lower costs of patient care and drive significant improvements in people’s health and health care. Games were a very popular medium that appealed to a variety of people and could be customized for different audiences and platforms. From that initial grant, RWJF focused on two areas where it could make the most impact: providing the health care industry with research and evidence on gaming effectiveness and connecting the fields of games and health care.

Today, RWJF's grantees are finding that games can help people manage their health, and motivate and facilitate behavior change using a wide range of digital platforms and targeting a broad range of populations on a variety of health topics. Grantees have discovered that well-designed and well-implemented games can motivate and support prevention, lifestyle behavior change, self-care, clinical care, adherence to treatment plans, and self-management of chronic conditions.

Health Games Research: Advancing Effectiveness of Interactive Games for Health

Health Games Research, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation national program, advances the research, design, and effectiveness of interactive games used to improve health.

The program has funded 21 research projects nationwide, with many releasing findings in 2012 that may contribute to the increasing perception of digital games as an evidence-based consideration in health care treatment. Researchers are evaluating questions of efficacy as well as principles of game design to determine not only if a game works, but why it works, to inform effective innovation in the next generation of games to improve health.

The national program, directed by Debra Lieberman, PhD, with the University of California, Santa Barbara, provides scientific leadership to the health games field and develops resources for researchers and game developers, including the most comprehensive online searchable health games database.

Learn more about the Health Games Research national program and the research projects it supports.

The Games for Health Project

Through the Games for Health project, RWJF supports a range of convening and field-building efforts that help forge connections between the worlds of games and health. Beginning in 2004, Games for Health, led by Project Director Ben Sawyer, has held national and regional conferences to bring together game designers and developers, researchers, medical professionals, educators, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and others to share information about games technology and its application to health. The Games for Health Conference, the program’s annual conference, is the leading national event in the field. The project also assists current game development, spreads best practices, shares research results and explores new game concepts to improve health and health care.

Learn more about the Games for Health Project and annual conference.

Follow RWJF, Health Games Research, and Games for Health on Twitter at @rwjf, @gamesresearch, and @gamesforhealth.