“Games are a means of discovery and entrepreneurship and can be used to transform our understanding of our health and lifestyles. Game technology is a tool for expanding our notions of what it means to be healthy,” said Nancy P. Hanrahan, PhD, RN, the Dr. Lenore H. Kurlowicz Term Associate Professor of Nursing who led the initiative. “Depending on our generation, we may think of board games like Scrabble, video games like Pac-Man, or virtual reality games like Portal. Today, games represent a whole new way of accessing information in innovative ways to, for example, improve health, extend access to care, and bridge levels of care from hospital to home.”
Ten teams took their ideas from promise to prototype, hoping to win the inaugural competition, held at Penn Nursing in April. The team members crisscrossed the campus with Nursing partners in biotechnology, systems engineering, education, communication, law, medicine, and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The winning entries take fresh approaches to health issues.
Taking first place was MyDiaText, a text message goal reminder system for children aged 10-14 recently diagnosed with Type I diabetes.
In second place was Trigger Buster, a mobile educational health game to help children and their families learn about asthma.
In third place was Healthy Cities: Healthy Women, an educational, interactive, solution-based game designed to raise awareness of urban women’s health issues.
Earning a social impact award was Mission Reintegration, a discussion-starter game for military personnel on aspects of reintegration, interpersonal relationships, and PTSD symptom recognition and management.
“These projects are addressing issues in underserviced areas,” explained Dr. Hanrahan, who led the initiative. “They are targeting ways to get health information across differently.”
Penn Nursing senior Gabriela de Hoyos of the Healthy Cities: Healthy Women team said the game helps nurses walk in their patient’s shoes. “It can be very challenging for students to understand the barriers to safety, healthy foods, exercise, and healthcare that many urban women face,” she said. “We hope to increase students' awareness and also increase the potential for better health outcomes in community-based care.”
Penn Nursing Dean Afaf I. Meleis sees promise in the overlaps between gaming and nursing. “Game-playing is built on many of the same concepts as nursing practice – making connections and sound judgments, fostering engagement, team-building, problem-solving, and planning,” she says. “Our teams have re-conceptualized game-playing as a path to health education, awareness, and treatment. Innovations like these put nurses in the position of being entrepreneurs, and that is value added to nursing science and nursing care.”
The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing is one of the premier research institutions in nursing, producing new knowledge in geriatrics, pediatrics, oncology, quality-of-life choices, and other areas. Researchers here consistently receive more research funding from the National Institutes of Health than any other private nursing school, and many Master’s programs are ranked first in the country. This year, faculty, students, alumni, and staff celebrate 125 years of nursing at Penn.
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