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School of Medicine Hosts Games for Health Conference

September 29, 2006

 Pulse!!, a healthcare simulation tool.

At first glance, gamers and doctors may seem like two very different groups, but they found common ground at the third annual Games for Health conference, held September 28 and 29 at the School for Medicine. Sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Games for Health Project is designed to foster the development of health-focused, videogame-related projects.


"It's a great statement that we're holding this at a school of medicine rather than at a hotel somewhere," said conference organizer Ben Sawyer. "In the last year we have seen a growing appreciation for what modern day videogames can offer to health care. The combination of powerful technology, evolved interface design and growing use among the next wave of health care workers is creating a ripe environment for further growth in this field."


Equally enthusiastic about the future of gaming and healthcare is Bruce Jarrell, MD, professor of surgery and Vice Dean for Academic Affairs. "This is an extremely important conference," Dr. Jarrell told the more than 200 attendees during his welcoming remarks. "I believe the merger of games and health has the potential to affect the health of the whole nation if we do this right."


Dr. Jarrell was particularly excited by the companies who had come to show off the progress of projects that were first introduced at last year's conference, confident that their success will pave the way for more health and games partnerships in the future. "Medical practitioners need validation," he explained. "They want to see proof that these projects are having an effect."


Among the health/game combinations featured at the conference:


  • NanoSwarm, a videogame to promote diabetes education.
  • Powergrid Fitness, makers of physically demanding interactive video games for use in the field of exergaming, including the Kilowatt videogame fitness systems now being used in some Gold's Gyms and YMCAs.
  • The Get-Well Gamers Foundation, a nationwide charity that brings videogames to over 30 children's hospitals across the United States.
  • BreakAway's Pulse!!, the virtual clinical learning lab, a first-person healthcare system simulation.
  • EyeToy Kinetic, a personalized workout program available on the Playstation 2 gaming system.
  • GlucoBoy, a glucose meter than can be inserted into a Nintendo GameBoy.
  • Forterra Systems, Inc., creators of virtual world technology for medical personnel. Their programs include a multi-player game designed to allow first responders to  rehearse coordinated responses to mass-casualty incidents.
  • Re-Mission, an online community for young people with cancer that includes the Re-Mission game, a 3-D shooter with 20 levels that takes you through the bodies of young people with different forms of cancer.

 For more on the Games for Health project, visit their website.

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