Video Games for Health: A New Approach to Educating and Treating Pediatric Cancer Patients

Published: Thursday, Jan 01, 1970
Video games have become a way of life for many children and adolescents, made possible by the advent of game consoles (eg, Xbox, Playstation), computers, and the Internet. Although some people frown upon the amount of time some kids spend playing these games and decry their lack of educational value, the gaming industry has begun to evolve beyond solely providing entertainment and turned its attention toward designing games that address “a wide range of public and private policy, leadership, and management issues”. As part of this effort, designers are working with physicians and researchers to develop games that combine entertainment value with education in a revolutionary approach to disease management that could be particularly effective in children and adolescents. Video games may not be an instant cure, but research has demonstrated that people have the ability to learn more when engaging in an interactive game, a phenomenon that game designers hope to leverage to help improve outcomes in a variety of diseases, including cancer.

  • Can games improve the provision, and quality, of healthcare? 
  • What existing and emerging game technologies (such as multi-user, virtual environments) might be particularly useful when applied to healthcare issues? 
  • How can we expand the application of computer-based game technologies to face key challenges in the healthcare sector? 
  • How do we identify and proactively deal with any social, ethical, and/or legal issues that might arise through the application of game-based tools to healthcare issues?
  • On September 28-29, 2006, the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore hosted the third annual Games for Health conference, which brought more than 250 researchers, medical professionals, game developers, and consultants together in order “to explore how video games and game developers are driving new strategies in health care” through case studies, a demonstration expo, research, lectures, panels, and discussions about a variety of topics and projects. “Game developers have the skills to create programs that will help patients learn about disease and disease management,” said Dr. Bruce Jarrell, vice dean for academic aff airs, University of Maryland School of Medicine. “There is real promise in the video game industry to bring needed health care information to patients in a familiar and exciting format.”
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