Interactive Games to Promote Behavior Change in Prevention and Treatment

Public health experts ought to be allowed to evaluate interactive games in which users exercise, practice making dietary choices and adhere to virtual treatment regiments.

Video games are now more popular than motion pictures; video games whose stories and objectives portray aspects of personal health might give rise to healthier thought patterns and behaviors.

This Online First commentary urges public health policy-makers and professionals to monitor developments in health promoting interactive technology. The authors describe examples of games that work through the Internet, mobile devices and video game platforms.

Key Findings:

  • To reduce cravings, users of Lit to Quit puffed into an iPhone instead of a cigarette.
  • In Cornell University’s Mindless Eating Challenge, adolescents shared cell phone pictures of meal portion size and ingredients.

Through its program on Health Games Research, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is evaluating interactive technology that fosters healthy living; health-based video games have the power to captivate millions, including individuals often missed by traditional health messaging. Further investigation by the public health community is necessary to create evidence-based design of health promoting interactive technology.