Mar 11, 2010, 8:02 AM, Posted by
In a move that underscores the potential for digital games to improve health and healthcare, the US Department of Agriculture together with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative announced yesterday a competition for apps and games “that encourage children directly or through their parents to make more nutritious food choices and be more physically active.”
The Apps for Healthy Kids competition will award $40,000 in prizes in two categories: Tools and Games. All entries will be judged on their
Potential impact on target audience;
Quality, accuracy, and content of message;
Creativity and originality;
Potential for further development and use; and
Potential to engage and motivate target audience.
Judges include Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, White House Office of Science & Technology Policy; Eric Johnston, Senior Software Engineer, LucasArts; and Steve Wozniak, Co-founder, Apple Computer, Inc.
When USDA was thinking about this contest, they pulled together a group of folks for advice, including Debra Lieberman, National Program Director for our Health Games Research Program; and, Ben Sawyer, who runs the Games for Health Conference, which we support.
Kudos to the USDA for seeing the value of games and to Debra and Ben for their contributions.
Feb 22, 2010, 9:50 AM, Posted by
George Whitesides, a chemist and the Flowers University Professor at Harvard, gave an elegant talk on simplicity at TED. Whitesides asserted that simple things have four qualities:
They are predictable and reliable;
They are cheap;
They have a high value-to-cost ratio; and
They are stackable, that is you can combine them to build more complicated things.
The lowly transistor is a simple thing. It’s also the building block of modern electronic devices. Transistors enabled computers which enabled the internet which enabled, well, you get the picture. The point here is that simple things have emergent properties, that is, they enable complex systems to arise out of simple interactions. The next point is that you can never predict what results or complex systems will emerge when you stack a bunch of simple things together, snowflakes included.
What he’s talking about, clearly, are simple physical things. But it led me to two thought experiments I’d like some help with…the first: identify two or three simple things that could be combined to create some novel product, service, or experience that would significantly improve health and health care.
The second: can you deconstruct a complex aspect of our health care system and identify its most simple parts as a first step in re-thinking how things get done?
Feb 16, 2010, 12:58 AM, Posted by
I particularly enjoyed the TED talk by Elizabeth Pisani, author of the book, The Wisdom of Whores. A former journalist whose work now focuses on drug users and sex workers, Pisani has a PhD in infectious disease epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and spoke on the second morning, one day after Princeton’s Daniel Kahneman, the father of behavioral economics.
Pisani voiced frustration during her talk about the mismatch between government policies and public health approaches and what influences the choices sex workers and drug users make. Her argument drew on the analytical framework behavioral economists like Kahneman have used so effectively to describe and understand the choices people make.
Pisani dismissed the field of public health as being limited by its reliance on a rational model to develop intervention programs. (TED likes iconoclasts.) In the case of sex workers, public health initiatives tell them engaging in unsafe sex with multiple partners can seriously compromise their health, presuming they will stop because it’s the rational choice to make. But Pisani argued that, in Indonesia, women become sex workers, in part, because they can make as much as five dollars a day when the average daily wage is 20 cents per day, a context that shapes their decision making.
I spoke with Elizabeth after her talk and asked her whether the field of public health could benefit from importing principles from the field of behavioral economics to improve analyses and interventions. She believes we need to focus on government and train political scientists in order to have better policy.
Feb 5, 2010, 8:59 AM, Posted by
I wrote last year about consumer product, service and retail companies moving more aggressively into the health and wellness space and how their customer-focused approach could be a real challenge to the more traditional medical model which is still struggling to understand and operationalize patient-centered care. According to recent news reports in the Cincinnati Enquirer, consumer product giant Proctor & Gamble recently purchased MDVIP, the nation’s largest concierge care company. P&G reportedly purchased a small stake in the company a couple years ago.
"‘We see this as a learning venture as well as a business,’ said Nathan Estruth, vice president of P&G's FutureWorks unit,” the Enquirer reported. Here’s a link to their story.
The article goes on to say that P&G “does not plan to market its products through the physician offices but rather use the company as ‘an incubator for primary care medicine,’ allowing it to gather information about patients and physicians, service and prevention. In 2008, for example, MDVIP worked with California-based Navigenics Inc., which P&G owns a stake in, to test that company's genetic marker that can gauge patients' predisposition to cancer, diabetes, heart attacks and other conditions.
“It's also talking with General Electric to test some of GE's diagnostic machines, Estruth said.”
I find these developments fascinating and can only begin to imagine how they might change the nature of care delivery.