When Games and Health Collide

New Levels, New Solutions

John Lumpkin, M.D., M.P.H., senior vice president and director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Health Care Group, delivered the opening address to attendees at the sixth annual Games for Health Conference in Boston. The event brought together game developers, technology experts, health professionals, researchers, policy-makers and educators to advance digital interactive games and game technologies that can improve health and the delivery of health care.

During his remarks, Lumpkin spoke about the junction of games, health data, patient empowerment and care delivery, elevating two trends that will become increasingly important in the health games field—games as the intervention and the potential to reduce the cost of care. Underscoring the vitality of collaboration, Lumpkin outlined key challenges in health care—ranging from training skilled practitioners to motivating behavior change among people managing chronic illnesses—that will require the skill and ingenuity of game industry experts to solve.

“The first generation of these health games proved that symptoms, biostats and therapeutic responses could be placed in a gaming context. It was a matter of aligning the decision points, finding ways to make the game a rich and useful analog to real-world health concerns and crises.”

“Now it is time to go to the next level. It is time for you to push farther into the realm of health and health care. Get to know, even better than you already do, the idiosyncrasies particular to specific diseases and treatment modalities. That can only be done by extending the nascent partnership between health professionals and game wizards even further.”

Held in partnership with the Foundation's Pioneer Portfolio, the annual Games for Health conference focuses on supporting ideas that may lead to breakthroughs in the future of health and health care. The Pioneer Portfolio has funded the Games for Health Project and this conference since 2004, to serve as a catalyst connecting diverse professional groups and creating opportunities to develop innovative solutions that help people live healthier lives and get the care they need.