GAMES FOR HEALTH JOURNAL: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications Volume 3, Number 4, 2014 ª Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. DOI: 10.1089/g4h.2014.1520

News from the Field

Mobile App Arms Pediatricians with Tool to Fight Childhood Obesity


he American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight and its partner, New York– based, Kognito launched a new tool for pediatricians to help them use motivational interviewing techniques to navigate patient and family conversations about childhood obesity. The Web-based module and mobile application (app), called ‘‘Change Talk: Childhood Obesity,’’ provides a virtual practice environment in which healthcare providers engage in a conversation with a mother and her son and learn to apply motivational interviewing techniques to help the virtual patient and family identify a desire for change and then offer support to implement modifications to their diet, screen-time habits, and exercise routines. ‘‘Studies suggest that motivational interviewing is an effective model for engaging young patients and their families in conversations about changing behaviors associated with obesity, such as poor diet and lack of physical activity, but we know that successfully managing these conversations and seeing results can be challenging,’’ said Sandra Hassink, MD, FAAP, medical director of the AAP Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight. More information is available at:

Virtual Reality Exercises Improve Stroke Patients’ Mobility

A blinded randomized controlled trial involving 59 stroke survivors in an inpatient rehabilitation unit found that patients in the standing virtual reality treatment cohort performed better on Timed Up and Go and Two-Minute Walk tests and showed reduced lower extremity impairment, according to a study from the Bryere Research Institute in Ottawa, ON, Canada, and published in the journal Stroke. All of the participants received standard stroke rehabilitation therapy. During a 3-week period, the treatment group also performed 10–12 daily sessions of virtual reality exercises designed to challenge their standing balance. More information is available at: early/2014/04/23/STROKEAHA.114.005362

percent of consumers are open to nontraditional forms of care at the right price point, and an additional 18 percent did not care about the cost. More information is available at: trants/assets/pwc-hri-essay.pdf Study Shows Room for Improvement in Children’s Games

Children’s diet and exercise smartphone applications (apps) could be improved with increased adherence to expert-recommended guidelines and strategies, conclude authors of a study published in Childhood Obesity. The team, from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City, identified 62 iPhone (Apple, Cupertino, CA) apps, primarily games, designed to boost children’s exercises and improve nutrition. They assessed how closely the games adhered to expert-recommended behaviors, such as eating five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and obesity prevention strategies, such as monitoring diet or physical activity. They found more apps addressing behaviors and few prevention strategies. More information is available at: Game Helps with Medication Adherence

‘‘PatientPartner,’’ an interactive simulation game from CyberDoctor of Mountain View, CA, helps patients improve adherence in taking prescribed medication. Players select a character and make choices for that character, and by watching what happens to the character, players understand and can reflect on their personal health decisions. Specialized modules allow players to improve their scores. The game also provides players with a report with tips and suggestions for health resources. ‘‘PatientPartner’’ was tested with a population of 100 nonadherent patients with diabetes at Pinnacle Health System in Hershey, PA. Those who used the game showed significant improvement. Medication adherence increased by 37 percent, from 58 percent to 95 percent, the equivalent to 3 additional days of medication adherence per week. Diet adherence increased by 24 percent, and exercise adherence went up 14 percent. More information is available at:

Report Shows Millions Spent on Medical Products, Games

SAMHSA Develops Underage Drinking Prevention Game

A report, ‘‘New Health Economy,’’ from PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute indicates that consumers are willing to spend collectively up to $13.6 million on medical products, such as health-related videogames and rating services. New entrants in health care could disrupt the system, the report states. It cites research showing that 64

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has developed the game ‘‘Start the Talk,’’ designed to help parents learn how to talk with their children about underage drinking. With the help of avatars, players practice bringing up the topic, what questions to ask, and suggestions for keeping the discussion going well. Goals




are for parents to demonstrate disapproval of underage drinking, care about the children’s happiness and well-being, reliability as a source of information, and capacity to pay attention and notice if a child drinks. It also will build the youngster’s skills and strategies for resisting the temptation to drink alcohol. More information is available at: http://

surgery or during an unpleasant procedure. Rocky Mountain Health Plans, also in Grand Junction, and CBS EcoMedia Inc. of New York, NY—through its WellnessAd advertising program—provided funding. The units are expected to serve 1000 patients annually. More information is available at:

Smartphone Game Makes Brushing Teeth Fun

Supplement Maker Offers Brain Games

‘‘Grush,’’ a smart toothbrush and smartphone game, helps children learn proper toothbrushing techniques while making it fun to brush. The motion-sensing, manual toothbrush sends information to ‘‘Grush Games,’’ which runs on an Android (Google, Mountain View, CA) or iOS (Apple, Cupertino, CA) mobile device. The game guides the child in proper techniques and tabulates a score on brushing quality. ‘‘Grush’’ saves the results to a cloud service, where parents can monitor their child’s brushing and offer reward for high scores. ‘‘Grush’’ is available in different models, depending on the age of the child. More information is available at:

Quincy Bioscience of Madison, WI, has started a free Web site with unlimited games that promote memory and cognitive performance. Each game focuses on a different function, such as attention, executive function, memory, and speed and processing. Players can track their scores and try to improve their skills. Quincy Bioscience is the maker of the Prevagen supplement and promotes the capsules at the games’ Web site. More information is available at: about-prevagen/

Exergaming Helps Children Lose Weight

A randomized trial finds incorporating exergaming into a pediatric weight-management program increased participants’ moderate-to-vigorous and vigorous physical activity, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics. Children in both groups of the 16-week trial lost weight, but those in the gaming cohort experienced a greater reduction in the percentage of overweight. Seventy-five overweight or obese children enrolled in the study, with a mean age of 10 years. They all took part in the family-based weight-management program. However, the gaming group received a game console, a motion-capture device, and two games (one at the second session and another at week 9). More information is available at: articleid = 1838346&resultClick = 3# LeapBand Aims to Get Children Exercising

LeapFrog Enterprises of Emeryville, CA, has introduced LeapBand, the first wearable activity tracker designed for children. The tracker encourages active play and healthy habits while children nurture one of eight virtual pets. It helps children start moving and having fun with 50 different activities and challenges. LeapBand also tracks a child’s physical moves. The more active a child is, the more points earned with their virtual pet, and the more virtual rewards the participant can receive. The device includes 10 preloaded active games and features a built-in accelerometer, a highresolution color screen, a rechargeable battery, and a waterresistant design. More information is available at: = 131670&p = irol-newsArticle&ID = 1924704&highlight = Hospital Adds Gaming System

Saint Mary’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Grand Junction, CO, is installing two Starlight Fun Center mobile entertainment units, which can roll next to children’s beds and provide therapeutic play before the child faces

Cancer Center Testing Smoking Cessation Game

Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, NY, are developing and testing a Web-based game called ‘‘Quit It,’’ which is designed to help smokers who have quit smoking cope with any smoking urges they may have. The purpose of the game is to help people quit and stop people from smoking again. Researchers began enrolling people in March 2014 and expect to recruit 100 people to take part in the randomized interventional trial. All participants will receive four cessation counseling sessions with self-help print material written specifically for tobaccodependent cancer patients and individualized recommendations for cessation medication. Those in the experimental cohort will be oriented and trained face-to-face, during their hospitalization, on use of the ‘‘Smoking Cues Coping Skills’’ game by study staff using an iPad (Apple, Cupertino, CA). More information is available at: show/NCT02099097?term = games&rank = 14 Virtual Pet Increases Children’s Physical Activity

University of Georgia researchers developed a virtual pet and game platform, tested it on 61 children at a summer camp, 9–12 years of age, and learned youngsters able to interact with the obese virtual dog averaged 1.09 hours of additional physical activity per day when compared to a group without the pet. The children assigned to train and exercise with the virtual pet were told that their physical activity would be used to improve the health of their individual dog, which they got to name and choose the color of its collar. The children also set activity goals, and if those were met, their dog would give them a congratulatory message and allow them to use controls to cause the dog to perform a trick, such as teaching it to sit or roll over. As the children met more of their goals, they could work on more sophisticated tricks, such as fetch and moonwalk. More information is available at: 2014/04/ttg201404523-abs.html UCSF Researchers Use Games to Collect Data

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) are using online games to collect a brief personal


history and results of online neuropsychological tests for its Brain Health Registry, which will create a ready pool of research subjects for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurological disease trials. Luminosity of San Francisco provided a battery of online assessments and is helping to recruit volunteers for the registry. ‘‘For those of us who know people suffering from Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, PTSD [posttraumatic stress disorder] and other brain disorders, this is a way we can be involved in the search for a cure,’’ said Douglas Rosenberg, of the Rosenberg Alzheimer’s Project, which is helping to fund the project. ‘‘We’ve worked to make the process very easy and very fulfilling for our volunteers.’’ More information is available at: Nike Launches Nike1 Fuel Lab

Building on the success of its NikeFuel (Nike, Beaverton, OR) wristband, which records a wearer’s body movements and lets him or her download the data to an iPhone (Apple, Cupertino, CA) and compete with fellow athletes, Nike + ecosystem has opened the Nike + Fuel Lab in San Francisco, CA, to broaden the use of NikeFuel through collaboration with industry leaders. The company hopes to create smarter products and services while expanding the NikeFuel platform and integrating NikeFuel into other companies’ products. More information is available at: news/nike-fuel-lab-launches-in-san-francisco

ASU Researchers Develop Games for Learning

Arizona State University (ASU) researchers at the Embodied Games for Learning Lab have developed innovative learning technologies that use gestures to teach science, technology, engineering, and math topics. Teachers can download the games and use them with students. ASU outlines ‘‘recommended steps for teachers.’’ The ‘‘Alien Health’’ exergame teaches children in grades 2–10 about nutrition and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate icon. It also encourages youngsters to perform short exercises so they can help an alien save the planet from an asteroid. Students make quick decisions about which foods to feed the alien. More information is available at:

197 FDA Approves Game for Stroke Rehab

Jintronix of Montreal, QC, Canada, received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market its rehabilitation system, marking the first approval from the FDA to use the Microsoft (Redmond, WA) Kinect platform by healthcare patients. Jintronix combines game-like exercises with common physical therapy exercises. Patients and their therapists receive immediate feedback about their success with the exercises. The system also provides qualitative data about the patient’s performance. ‘‘The FDA clearance is an important step in the adoption of new Internet connected consumer technologies in healthcare,’’ said Daniel Schacter, co-founder of Jintronix. ‘‘As consumers become more familiar with technologies such as motion capture and facial recognition, we think the opportunities for consumer-based technologies to change healthcare are enormous.’’ More information is available at: Pn5KGW2y + 9c + PRN20140509 Yale University Researching Game for HIV Prevention

Researchers at Yale University in New Haven, CT, are conducting a randomized clinical trial to evaluate the efficacy of an interactive videogame the investigators are developing to reduce risky behaviors in at-risk teens, 11–14 years of age. The investigators are using proven components of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention interventions, social cognitive theory, self-efficacy, prospect theory, message framing, and videogaming principles to develop and evaluate this interactive HIV prevention videogame. They plan to enroll 330 participants and complete the study by July 2015. More information is available at: = games &rank = 4 MS Patients Find Active Videogames Fun and Beneficial

Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and their physical therapists found playing Nintendo (Redmond, WA) ‘‘Wii Fit’’ games for balance fun and found the games challenging for the patients’ physical and cognitive capacities. Researchers reportedinthejournalDisabilityandRehabilitationthatpatients felt motivated by the competitive content of the games. Patients also experienced better body control, balance, and walking in daily life. More information is available at: http://informa

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