Author Archives: Ari Kramer

Stress: Withstanding the Waves

Sep 23, 2014, 11:42 AM, Posted by Ari Kramer

As a kid, when you went to the beach, did you ever play that game where you’d wade into the ocean and test your strength against the waves? You'd stand your ground or get knocked over, and after a few minutes, you'd head back to shore.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but as we felt those waves roll by, we were getting an early glimpse of the stresses of everyday life. The difference is, as adults we can't choose to stand up to just the small ones. And for the most part, going back to shore is not an option.

In a survey RWJF conducted with the Harvard School of Public Health and NPR, about half of the public reported experiencing a major stressful event in the past year. In more than four in 10 instances, people reported events related specifically to health. Many also reported feeling a lot of stress connected with jobs and finances, family situations, and responsibility in general.

Over time, those waves can take their toll. And when they become overwhelming, they can truly wear us down, seriously affecting our both our physical and emotional health.

So how can we deal with these waves of stress? Certainly, there are proactive things we can all do help manage its effect on our lives—exercise, for example. At the same time, we’ve probably all experienced instances when we’d love nothing more than to get up early for a run or brisk walk—but don’t have the energy because stress kept us up at night. Or we may just be too tapped out from long hours, relationship struggles, caring for loved ones, etc., to spare the energy or the time.

If this sounds familiar, consider yourself human. Right next to you, whether at work, on the train, in your grocery store, is probably someone whose waves are similar to or bigger than your own. So at the same time as you try to manage your stress, ask yourself: What could be done to help others achieve a solid footing? In this ocean of ours, there’s never a shortage of opportunity to lend a helping hand.

Have an idea to help move from a culture of stress to a Culture of Health in the home, workplace or community? Please share below—we’d love to hear from you.

Can a Reduction in Hospital Acquired Infections Cut Health Care Costs?

Jul 7, 2009, 1:56 AM, Posted by Ari Kramer

There is no denying that hospital acquired infections (HAIs) are an expensive drain on the system and impact the lives of an estimated 1.7 million hospital patients a year – killing nearly 99,000 annually. Is it possible that simply instituting best practices in infection control can substantially reduce these infections and save the nation’s healthcare system billions of dollars a year?  Yes, according to an article in last week’s Roll Call by Ramanan Laxminarayan of the Extending the Cure initiative, a Pioneer grantee, and Ed Septimus from HCA Healthcare System.  Laxminarayan and Septimus propose several ideas and incentives, which they believe will reduce the rate of resistant HAIs and control the rise of antibiotic resistance. 

Are hospital acquired infections really the low hanging fruit that will benefit patients and cut health care costs?  Check out the article and then come back here and let us know what you think.   


This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.

Five Questions from Games for Health

Jun 16, 2009, 12:39 PM, Posted by Ari Kramer

After a few good nights’ sleep, I think I’ve finally started to process some of the intriguing concepts I took in at 2009 Games for Health. Newbie that I am, rather than offer my own rudimentary take on what’s happening out there, I want to use this post to just pass along a few nuggets that really made my ears perk up and pose some questions. I’m eager to become more involved in this space, so I’d love to hear any thoughts or nagging questions that other participants or observers took away from this conference. Thanks again to everyone who took a couple of minutes to talk with me last week, and please help me keep the conversation going!

  • Steve Brown, CEO of 3Banana, posed the following as the fundamental design challenge of health games: “Games are for fun and health issues are an unwanted intrusion into our lives.” That could be interpreted as: because games are fun, they are more likely to compel certain people to deal with health issues; or as because games should be fun, people may consider the incorporation of health issues as an intrusion. How can the industry strike the right balance between former and the latter?
  • Tim Chang of Northwest Venture Partners, speaking to a standing room only crowd, offered the VC’s perspective on short- and long-term opportunities for health games: “If a product does not tap into one of the seven deadly sins, it will not succeed.” Is this good advice for developers and other stakeholders? Why or why not?
  • At the second morning plenary, an investor with a strong interest in cognitive games described a recent family retreat where a centerpiece of the entertainment was a Wii Fit. At one point 14 folks were playing together – including an 80-something who was particularly into it. So clearly, exergaming is heating up on many fronts. What other areas of health games may soon be ripe for the mainstream? What internal/external developments must unfold for this to happen?     
  • At one point, there was reportedly a queue out to the door for the “accessibility suite,” where vendors were demonstrating products that allow people suffering different levels of paralysis to play health games. The devices were incredibly cool, but what really got me thinking was a video clip of an interview posing one question to game developers: "Have you ever thought about disabled people who play games?" Undeniably many have given thought to this question, but as you can see from "The One Question Interview" on the Able Gamers website, it seems many also have not. How would you rate the health games world on the accessibility question on a scale of 1 to 10, and what do you think are some of the key barriers and opportunities?

Finally, in addition to being my first real exposure to this field, Games for Health provided me my first opportunity to live tweet from a major event – and I was obviously far from alone. Since last Thursday there have been a combined close to 450 tweets from more than 100 people with the #gamesforhealth and #g4h09 tags – and the numbers keep growing. To find out what really has people talking, check out the streams yourself.

Well that’s it for now. More tidbits/questions to come… 

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.

Games for Health: A Thought from Day One

Jun 12, 2009, 5:16 AM, Posted by Ari Kramer

Well, now I finally know firsthand what the buzz is about! Day one of this year’s Games for Health conference was a thoroughly enjoyable primer on this incredible field. Having been up since about 4 a.m. in addition to being brand new to this space, many of my notes unfortunately make less sense to me at the moment than I hoped they would. So rather than get into any of the specific topics raised during some sessions I attended, I’ll start and finish this health games post with a brief personal note. 

The one time I might have ever been anything approximating a gamer was during the Atari 2600 days, when like so many of my pals, I sported blistered palms from marathon sessions of Pitfall and Track and Field. During some background reading a few days ago, I came across some telling industry information from the Entertainment Software Association. One statistic that really stuck with me is that the average age of the most frequent game purchaser is not 17 or 18, but 39. I don’t recall if that stat spoke to people buying games for themselves or for their children, but either way it got me thinking. With all the incredible developments taking place in the field today, when my little guy hits the gaming age, I have a feeling his dad is going to catch the bug again, too.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.