Wii sets have been used by older people for indoor sport
Computer Games and Apps
Computer games can be used to teach people about
public health issues. In this case getting food aid to a
country in conflict
21st century health education
Computer games will be the future of health education. They are no longer just for kids. The average age of games players in the US is 29 and its not just men. 40% of gamers are female. As current generations of young people grow up and continue to play, the average age of players will continue to go up.
Computer games then offer a great opportunity for health education in the years to come. Today they are still probably useful for certain younger target groups but generally not older parts of the population
What computer games offer public health
There is now a subsection of the computer industry devoted to the serious use of games. Games can and have been used for three main interrelated purposes:
* To give out health information
* To tackle attitudes and values
* To teach new skills
They have been used both with the public and as training tools for public health workers. Perhaps they could also be used for public involvement purposes. A simple game could be produced to model the consequences of closing or keeping open a local hospital. This might both attract positive press attention and engage the public in informed debate.
Like many other popular culture approaches they can also be used in a symbolic way to attract and engage target groups. Click here for more information.
The growth of phone apps also offer another platform for serious games, as well as other health software.
Is the future of public health in online worlds?
A new development beyond traditional computer games are online worlds. Each week between 35-50 million people worldwide log on to virtual worlds such as Second Life, and the number is rising. These worlds are 'countries' where people can create new or the same identities for themselves and interact with others. Some are themed around fantasy or science fiction themes. However, the very popular Second Life is an open arena, where people can live however they want. Charities such as Comic Relief, Fight Hunger and the World Development Movement already have strategies to make use of these new arenas. US universities, such as Harvard and Berkeley, do too. An individual National Health Service trust might want to have a presence if social market research show that it can reach a particular target group this way. National or transnational health organisations perhaps are more likely at the moment however to see enough potential audience to take the plunge.
How to engage people will still be the big issue. Perhaps, however the use of music, comedy and other approaches described on this website would also work well in these new interactive virtual worlds. Radio 1, Suzanne Vega and others already have had successful concerts in Second Life.
Alternatively, it is possible to buy private land for particular purposes. For example, in Second Life, there is an Addam's Family style house where people with Asperger's syndrome can practice their social skills.
Some big multinationals are also using Second Life as a venue to hold meetings between employees in different countries. Health workers may also want to think about this as a way of cutting down unnecessary travel.
To read a much more full account of the topics covered on this page in the relevant chapter from my report on edutainment for health purposes click here
To download the whole 180 page report on using popular culture to tackle health inequalities click here
To read additional information about using computer games from 2008 click here
To read about producing websites that people actually want to read click here
http://www.sexanddrugsandrockandhealth.com/Producing websites that are used.pdf
To download the PDF software to be able to view these files click here