Apr 30, 2012, 9:15 AM, Posted by
Happiness is gaining currency today, particularly in relationship to health and medicine. That’s what we’ve been hearing ever since Harvard School of Public Health researchers Julia K. Boehm and Laura Kubzansky published their report “The Heart’s Content: The Association Between Positive Psychological Well-Being and Cardiovascular Health” in the Psychological Bulletin, under a grant from Pioneer. This is the first study of its kind to look closely at how positive psychological well-being—including happiness and optimism—plays a role in heart health.
The story was indeed hot – gaining attention from USA Today, The Huffington Post, TIME’s Healthland blog, WebMD, The New York Times’ Well Blog, ABCNews.com, MensHealth.com, ModernHealthcare.com, Oprah.com, and hundreds more – and being shared throughout social networks and on the web.
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Apr 17, 2012, 4:10 AM, Posted by
Today, the Psychological Bulletin published research by Julia K. Boehm and Laura Kubzansky from the Harvard School of Public Health suggesting that positive psychological well-being – such as life purpose, positive emotion, life satisfaction, happiness and optimism – can help protect against and slow the progression of heart disease.
Prior research in this area has focused on how risk factors like anxiety and depression are associated with cardiovascular disease. But this study is the first of its kind to consider how a health asset –psychological well-being – plays a role in heart health.
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Mar 12, 2012, 10:00 AM, Posted by
I recently had the good fortune of sitting down with Bill Ferguson to discuss the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s pivotal role in health games research for the inaugural issue of the Games for Health Journal. In our talk, I detailed the Foundation’s early investment in the field, the challenges to advancing health games and some grantee findings to date.
Thinking about our conversation, I’m struck by how far the field has come since the early days of our health games support in 2004. Back then, there wasn’t much intersection between the games space and the health space, but Pioneer saw potential. So we worked with Ben Sawyer (@BenSawyer) of Digitalmill to do some community building within the gaming industry around health interests and funded the first-ever Games for Health Conference.
Now, with seven conferences behind us and the eighth scheduled for June 12-14, 2012, in Boston, Pioneer can proudly claim we helped create and sustain a way for the games and health communities to come together. But we didn’t stop there.
Pioneer expanded its support to the Health Games Research national program, directed by Debra Lieberman at UC Santa Barbara (who is featured in a roundtable discussion of health games experts in the Journal), where we are seeing our 21 grantees test some fascinating ways health games can be optimally designed. They're exploring game features such as competition, collaboration, social comparison, social support, nurturing of characters, immersion in fictional worlds and alternate realities, interacting with a human-like robots to motivate exercise, using a mobile phone game as a substitute for a cigarette, and much more. And there’s more to come.
Health Games Research's work to identify a broad range of features that make for effective health games will help to further expand the creative horizons of future developers. Well-designed and well-implemented games can motivate and support prevention, lifestyle behavior change, and self-management of chronic conditions, and Pioneer is proud to be part of this work. We are excited to see a journal devoted to the research, development, and clinical application of games and health.
Check out the inaugural issue and read about the work of Pioneer’s grantees and others in this important field on the Pioneer Health Games homepage. Tell @pioneerrwjf or @gamesresearch what you think.
May 23, 2011, 6:19 AM, Posted by
Here are a few of my initial ideas from the 2011 Games for Health Conference, put on by Ben Sawyer and Beth Bryant:
1. The sensors are coming, the sensors are coming. Sensors and the software to collect and analyze the data are on the verge of becoming retail products. Green Goose is one company hoping to grab this market. What does it mean for health games? It means that soon we will be able to turn lots of things into data collection and data input devices. So think about games that use household objects instead of, say, a wii remote. You could turn your house into the playing field for a game.
2. Better seeds and more fertile ground. The quality of health games—the game mechanics, the theory underlying design is getting better. At the same time, the context in which we can use games to improve health is expanding. We can now embed games in social networks, so think about linking someone’s facebook friends in with their game efforts to lose weight or manage their diabetes.
3. There’s likely more than one way for a game that has an impact at scale. When we got into this space at RWJF, we were thinking about games as therapeutic interventions for individuals—one person with one game addressing one condition that a lot of individuals have. But building off item 2 above, given what Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler are showing with their research on transmission of health behaviors through social networks, you could design a health game that requires social networks—teams—to play. Still another level up is a game that could target a health problem that was a function of a system problem. That is, a game that targeted a health problem that resulted not from someone’s genetics, but from set of processes and systems that are outside of any one individual’s control. Imagine a game that’s designed to get some producers to make healthier food.
Apr 26, 2011, 3:01 AM, Posted by
Are We The Source of Knowledge?
We started hearing about it a couple years ago: an ALS member of Patients Like Me had seen (and translated—it was in Italian) a medical conference poster with results showing lithium carbonate could slow the disease’s progression. That study was a single-blind trial of 16 treated patients and 28 controls. The results spread through the ALS community and soon, patients began talking their physicians into prescribing lithium carbonate off-label. PLM soon had 348 members reporting on the effects of their use of the drug.
PLM realized they had an opportunity to study the experience of their members who were—effectively—experimenting with the drug. PLM couldn’t randomize, so they developed an algorithm and matched 149 treated patients to 447 controls based on the progression of their disease course.
On Sunday, the journal Nature Biotechnology published PLM’s findings showing after 12 months of treatment, lithium carbonate had no effect on disease progression. PLM reports that subsequent clinical trials reached similar conclusions.
What’s important here is to recognize the potential to conduct research using patient self-reported data from an online social community. PLM’s sweet spot is social communities for ambiguous diseases (that is, diseases we’re still learning about, diseases that don’t have clear, effective treatment protocols) where the patient does a lot of care at home. To be sure, PLM is a pretty sophisticated community, but it’s intriguing to think about where we might be in 10-15 years.
A couple of us met last week with PLM’s Jamie Heywood and Dave Clifford. We had a ranging discussion—hard to avoid with Heywood—that included linking patient self-reported data with clinicians, conducting research with this data, and business models. A fundamental question Heywood is exploring is “whether it’s faster to get to learning health system through the current confines of the health system or through something like PLM.”
Given the growing ability and inclination of patients to capture and share details on their own experiences, how powerful a role is there for the analysis of this sort of data in our efforts to accelerate the discovery of new treatments for disease?