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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Announces Games For Health Competition

$30,000 Competition Encourages Innovative Ways to Address Health and Health Care Issues Through the Power of Video Games

October 19, 2006 - The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today announced a nationwide contest to promote the development of computer and video games that improve people's health and help them get the care they need.

The Games for Health Competition will award prizes totaling $30,000 to entrants who develop game concepts or prototypes aimed at improving aspects of health and health care. Details on contest categories may be found on the Games for Health Competition Web site at www.gamesforhealth.org/competition.

RWJF, the nation's largest philanthropy dedicated to health and health care, is the lead competition sponsor. Support for Games for Health and this contest is provided through RWJF's Pioneer Portfolio, which supports innovative projects that may lead to breakthrough improvements in health and health care. Additional prize support has been provided by HopeLab, Inc., a nonprofit organization that combines rigorous research with innovative solutions to improve the health and quality of life of young people with chronic illnesses.

"Today's technology has the ability to both educate and entertain," said Chinwe Onyekere, program officer, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "We want to encourage people with creative minds to harness that potential in a way that leads to better management and delivery of health and health care. We hope the Games for Health Competition will bring forward some of the most exciting and innovative solutions to today's health challenges."

The contest will accept entries from October 19, 2006 through April 1, 2007, and winners will be announced in May 2007. Three prizes will be awarded - one for a working prototype and two for storyboard/design treatments.

An example of a game for health is "Ben's Game," a computer game conceived by Ben Duskin, a nine-year-old leukemia patient who thought kids like him needed something to help them battle their illness while relieving some of the pain and stress of treatment. Eric Johnston, a software developer working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, turned Ben's plan into a reality, involving Ben in every step of development. In the action-adventure game (which can be downloaded at http://www.makewish.org/ben), players learn about managing chemotherapy while they skateboard through a virtual course to collect "shields" that protect them from common side effects and use pharmaceuticals to kill "monster cells."

Another example is DanceDanceRevolution (DDR), a bestselling videogame by Konami that challenges players to follow dance steps and music cues using an interactive dance mat. The hugely popular game, which features game play and specific workout tools that help players burn substantial calories and hit recommended cardio fitness levels, has been incorporated into West Virginia public schools physical education programs to help address the high prevalence of childhood obesity in that state. Researchers at West Virginia University have found that students that normally did not participate in sports or physical activity were far more likely to play DDR.

"These games are now distributed worldwide, reaching diverse audiences, while working to improve overall health and understanding of complex health issues," said Ben Sawyer, co-director of Games for Health. "Through this competition, we want to extend that kind of powerful impact to other health and health care issues."

Entrants in the storyboard/treatment competition will design a game that identifies a specific problem faced by health care providers (such as training staff to counsel family members or raising awareness about bone marrow donations) or address a significant health issue and offer potential strategies for addressing the problem. The design documents should be three to five pages long and include three to four relevant visuals.

Participants in the prototype competition will develop working prototypes of a health-related game in a playable form. The games may be about any health or healthcare topic and could help with training, health education, disease management, prevention or building general awareness and understanding.

The competition is open to people over the age of 18, including independent and collegiate developers, casual gamers and organizations that are not commercial game publishers. Health and health care organizations are invited to enter, including schools of public health, health care non-profits and hospitals. Entrants are encouraged to involve representatives from a health care organization, patient population or other health-related audiences that would benefit from the game it designs in the concept development and execution.

For more information about the Games for Health Competition, visit www.gamesforhealth.org/competition.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 30 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.

About Games for Health

Games for Health is a project produced by The Serious Games Initiative, a Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars effort that applies cutting edge games and game technologies to a range of public and private policy, leadership, and management issues.

The Initiative founded Games for Health to develop a community and best practices platform for the numerous games being built for health care applications. To date the project has brought together researchers, medical professionals, and game developers to share information about the impact games and game technologies can have on health care and policy.

Contact: Brian Wesolowski



Ben Sawyer



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GamesIndustry International


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