Kids’ Health 2.0: Get Your Head in the Game

Unbeknownst to me, today is Child Health Day, evidently the 80th annual occasion?  (another one of those ‘must’ve slipped by me’ arcane calendar days)

Evidently Calvin Coolidge came up with this gig way back in 1928, complete with proclamation and pledges toward healthy eating and activity and the future of our nation…but let’s face it, we all know we’re in ‘Houston we’ve got a problem” mode…and my guess is that proclamation has been through the spin cycle a few times.

After all, with food marketing, and the IOM report showing one-third of all children are impacted by obesity (in the U.S., government estimates show 1 in 6 kids age 2-19 are overweight and at risk for asthma, heart disease, diabetes) this heralds the highest projected mortality rate of any recent generation. Sigh. ‘Are we having fun yet?’

Many have rightfully come down HARD on advergaming, sedentary video play, and video ‘addiction’ as a contributor (along with junk food, additives, lack of guidelines for marketing practices, ‘lazy parents’, and the usual suspects of access, socioeconomics and such)

I say let’s ditch the obviousness of ‘the problem’ and shine the spotlight on some solutions coming from some of the most unlikely media stars in this battle for better health…Gamers. Yup. That’s right. Digital gamers. Be honest now, what’s your first visual that comes to mind?

Intense media zombie-fied kids that only go outdoors with a media device dangling from an orifice?

Collegiate MMORPG sieges of Mountain Dew amped thumb twitchers in late night raids of some gawdforsaken city?

Since we’re big on myth-breaking here at Shaping Youth, we’re going to unveil some leaders in ‘serious games’ out to use the power of media for positive change.

For starters, here’s a sneak peek behind the scenes at the upcoming ‘Health 2.0’ conference where some of the brightest minds in the health care arena are wrangling with solutions-based alternatives to reach a new generation of learners.

I’m hoping to snag a press pass to the Health 2.0 event (FAQ here) as it’s out of Shaping Youth’s nonprofit price range and I’m definitely eager to find out ‘best practices’ that are applicable to our own hands-on demos in ‘train the trainer’ counter-marketing format which we’re still trying to fund for open source digital distribution!

Health 2.0 presenters coming to S.F. in the next two weeks include senior leadership from techno innovators like WebMD, HealthGrades, PatientsLikeMe, Navigenics, MedHelp, American Well,, 23andme, Gaming4Health & our friends at Playnormous, showcasing upcoming kids’ games like Lunch Crunch, and Brain Gain and Juice Jumble and their plethora of healthy offerings…(there’s about 50 more, but I’m out of link love for now, just Google it! Oh, yeah, they’ll be presenting too!)

My point is, things are lookin’ up on this ‘Child Health Day’…it’s NOT all ‘doom and gloom’ as the media would have you believe.

Media/marketing has indeed been complicit in ‘creating the problem’ but also has the core capacity to be part of the solution, with immersive learning simulations to support health and fitness and market-driven opportunities to create healthier kids AND adults…

That is, if we use these media tools wisely.

We’ve written about the Wii Fit phenom in schools and DDR active gaming integration getting sedentary kids jazzed about P.E…And have an upcoming feature on youth gyms and teen fitness that use video games as a fitness draw...So it really shouldn’t surprise me that Interaction Laboratories estimates that ‘active gaming’ should exceed $2.2 billion in 2008.

FitBit which I wrote about as a TechCrunch 50 hit, and an awesome new device called MuveIt with Mayo Clinic ties should bump gizmos into an even higher realm of active engagement/gaming potential in the next year. (and if I have any say in it, Shaping Youth is going to join forces for some testing in those arenas as well!)

Gaming4Health and its’ “Health eGames”  may or may not incorporate ‘active gaming components’ but definitely include delivery across a wide array of platforms online, from social networks and widgets and apps (e.g. the use of FitBit, MuveIt and other action tracking devices applied to online/offline use) to consoles, PCs, mobile, iPhone apps, Nintendo DS, and I’d add “virtual worlds” (since Shaping Youth is embedding some ‘virtual nutrition’ via tween avatars using collaborative informal learning in early 2009)

According to Gaming4Health’s site, healthy gaming market projections are about $700 million during the next year, including brain fitness ($267M), WiiFit ($250M+) and beyond…

So their collaborative community and conference alone could become a phenomenal ‘knowledge depository’ for the rest of us trying to make change in this arena!

As regular readers know, I’ve been following “Health-e” moves towards casual gaming like Playnormous which (imho) is RIPE for partnering possibilities to instill better health for kids in ANY youth environment (after school programs, hospital outreach, YMCA child care, Girl Scout badges, health sciences in the classroom, the idea hamster here can think of a GAZILLION ways to integrate these games into e-learning fun)

Beyond kids’ casual, active, immersive, serious, and online-to-offline bridges for productization like the Me2Universe virtual world mentioned here, I’d love to see some health messaging address kids in children’s hospitals via lap top…

For example: Why not have bed-bound kids literally ‘go out and play’ in virtual worlds to boost their emotional health with hope and promise?

How can we support ‘serious games’ like ReMission to combat cancer so kids can understand what’s happening to their bodies in 3D visualization?

What about the whole biofeedback potential of childrens’ physical and recreational therapy (again, using devices that bridge online to offline data for encouragement and behavioral change) and the pragmatic professional uses for training, testing and even operation/OR sims. The potential is limitless…

New ventures like Spore an open-ended universe created by the Sims guy, Will Wright, could potentially even take kids on a healthy journey of their own making in ‘Fantastic Voyage’ retro style…(okay, I’m dating myself) Still, it’s plausibleDr. Susan Linn and her ‘Case for Make Believe’ would no doubt applaud this venture in open-ended play!—

So yeah, I’d say when we think of ‘gaming’ even children’s ‘arcade games’ can be turned into healthy opportunities to counter-market, educate, and ‘infiltrate’ the digital sphere with healthy messages.

Along those lines, just envision the opportunity to embed health education into TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy did with viewers gobbling up the plotline and digesting it as fact, as Kaiser Family Foundation’s study reported here. (why not turn the ‘sex sells’ bit into ‘sex ed’ to sell safety and ethics instead? Let’s be imaginative, people!)

We’ve discussed how virtual worlds like Whyville have used flu vaccines to spread information about health content, so why not embed health education on environmental additives (e.g. teens for safe cosmetics, for example) or to instill cause-effect messaging via ‘sim city’ formats? It’ll also be interesting to watch what Me2Universe will do with their productized version of game play. (whether it becomes just another consumer vehicle to make money, or an online/offline interactive bridge for health care)

Then there’s the fabulous HopeLab visionaries using crowdsourcing to ‘Raise a Ruckus’ offline and get kids moving outside with new invention-based ideas! I can see how Gaming For Health pros could have a field day with their community maximizing the shared knowledge and best practices of the entire network!

In short, on this Child Health Day, I’d like to THANK the gamers and gurus in the global health sphere for using media and marketing to maximize the energy, excitement and potential of the digital sphere, on behalf of kids’ health. Give yourselves a pat on the mouse pad!

And don’t forget to GET AWAY from the gizmos and get your OWN keisters outdoors for the sake of your OWN health. Walk a dog. Stretch your legs…Obviously, I’m signaling a cue for myself here…(that’s my neighbor Monica in S.F. with my dog Annie at left, and her dog, Cadence)

From what I hear via the ‘MuveIt’ execs/Mayo Clinic partners, pretty soon, their gizmo will preventively ‘remind me’ to MOVE and get up BEFORE my metabolism drops to dormancy and I’m locked up in cramped-computer immobility in poor circulation mode, pounding away as a passionista with little regard for my OWN health…Woohoo! See? It’s not just the kids that love these gizmos.

Happy Child Health Day…

As a champion of change I can honestly say, things ARE lookin’ up…

Shaping Youth: Gaming Resources & Articles That Might Surprise!

Health eGames Market Report 2008

Games for Health 2008 Recap (e.g. Generation Fit: ExerLearning, etc.)

Gaming4Health Online Arcade: Games On Nutrition

Wii-habilitation for heartfailure patients

Gaming Conferences Summits & Mtgs. (note the number of health/gaming topics!)

Children in Virtual–Papers & Presentations, Spring ’08

Web Worlds ‘Useful’ For Children (BBC News)

Study Finds Virtual Worlds Offer Good Real World Lessons for Kids (Switched, re: CBBC)

Games for Change: Public Health

Serious Games Initiative/Experimental Health Game Jam

Computer Games Teach Healthy Food Habits

Digital Games for Social Change (G4C Festival)

(Kotaku) Kids Who DON’T Play Video Games Are At Risk (?! source note)

Helpful Ways to Reduce Screen Time (NIH)

p.s. Allied Media Update per Science Daily:

New Beacon Street Girls Book (Lake Rescue) Helps Obese Kids Lose Weight

Interview forthcoming in the first study to look at obese adolescents responding to kid-lit, per researchers at Duke Children’s Hospital! (Beacon Street Girls Lake Rescue)

See? Told you things were lookin’ up in various forms of healthier media messaging!

Although here’s the counter-point media analysis via Junk Food Science that essentially says “not so fast, data dredgers…”

Related media:

Real Food Moms: Nutrition for Teens/Tweens

Business Wire: Popular Series for Preteen Girls Has Significant Impact on BMI, Helps Teach Tweens Healthy Eating Habits (Beacon Street/Duke Children’s Hospital Study)



  1. Re: Health 2.0 Conference, I think you can make a pitch to Matthew Holt and the rest of the team to get a discounted pass as a non-profit if you can’t get a press pass.

    Have a great time!

  2. Thanks, Alex…I’ve applied via their site but they only ask for the basics, so I’m not sure what their pre-quals are

    I cover these important events regularly as press, so I’d hope they’d see the value; but we’ll see. Appreciate the lead on Matthew’s name; I’ve visited, and thought of leaving a msg., but will try traditional routing first. Thanks again–Amy

  3. Update: Playnormous just posted about WebMd being challenged by the merger of the #2 and #3 entity in the field…

    More here:

  4. I was recently looking for a website where I could find some lesson plans and came across this site . Its fantastic , it has a few different sections each requiring individual registration but the resources and lesson plans on this site is amazing. The network section on is like a “facebook “ and “myspace” for anyone who is interested in Physical Education from kids to the further education professionals. I immediately found some cool videos I could use and lots of lesson plans available. I would recommend this site to anyone looks for some cool ideas for home schooling their children or for teachers and professionals looking for more resources.

  5. Great stuff, my brother showed me this page. Do you post anywhere else?

  6. I have crosspost-content swap agreements with the friends on my sidebar…In the gaming community, HealthGamers for example. And Gamine Expedition (Sara M Grimes’ blog on gaming) Why, out of curiosity?

  7. I’m a firm believer in promoting good health myself. Great info!

  8. Lots of great info here, especially about the zombified kids. See so many at my martial arts for kids classes, but once I get them out on the floor, the zombie is gone and the kid spirit comes out.

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  10. Mexico is number one in children obesity. But the problem is that the government is not really into doing something, regulating sugary products or doing ANYTHING about it.

    Of course it’s not only the government work. But also all families work. To teach their sons a balanced diet since their little

    Very important things to do

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