SHIFT Communications experts discuss all things healthcare and media.

The Gamification of Health

By Amanda Guisbond @agbond

Lately I’ve been thinking about Sh*t Girls Say, Suri’s Burn Book and Tebowing – and what it takes to make something go viral to the point that everyone in your online community and “in real life” is talking about it.  Unfortunately, it always seems like the unimportant things (no offense, Suri, because I LOVE you) are widely shared, and that maybe the more important things (it’s an election year!) get left off the agenda for lunch time.

As a professional communicator, my natural next thought is – How can we make the really important discussions clever or catchy enough that they inspire water cooler conversation?   And more specifically to the sharing of vital health information – How can we make healthy living go viral?  If health information was fun or funny, could it have the same impact as say, learning how to Dougie?

Meet Buster Benson & Health Month.  This guy is brilliant – a ridiculously bright programmer who is turning health into a free, online game.  Essentially, Health Month invites you, for free, to sign up and start setting personal health goals for one month (“don’t worry about forever, just play this month” the game invites) that you’re measured against.  You have a scorecard and super geeky cool things like charts automatically developed for you based on a computer algorithm.  Also – duh – it’s social, and you’re encouraged to invite friends & family to “play” along with you.  There’s something beautiful about people living healthy, spreading healthy… and doing it all in a fun, measurable way.

Of course, Buster’s not the only person to turn to gaming to inspire people to take charge of their health – there are several other examples of organizations such as the AARP using games to foster greater health outcomes.  And just this week the Washington Post’s Vivek Wadhwa cited gamification as one of “eight technologies for a greater 2012.”

So, what else could be turned into a game? (a wish list)

  • Scheduling doctor appointments regularly and on-time
  • Educating school kids on proper nutrition (eat Domino’s pizza, lose 10 points)

And even…

  • A major gaming site like Zynga partners with a non-profit like American Cancer Society to create a disease awareness game or virtual Breast Cancer Walk

Do you think gamification could help health go viral?  What are some major health gaps or dilemmas you think could be improved by changing them into game form a la Buster Benson and Health Month? 

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