An Initiative To Develop Apps For Healthier Kids

An Initiative To Develop Apps For Healthier Kids
technology

An initiative of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign helps illuminate the Gaming for Health trend in the PSFK Future of Health report.

Kyle Studstill
  • 13 august 2010
Gaming and Future of Health follow-up—Apps for Healthy Kids
The future of health lies in teaching our children lifelong habits to exercise and eat
well. Gaming and social technologies present a tremendous opportunity to engage
kids in a playful environment so they can learn through positive reinforcement on
their own terms instead of being told what to do by nutrition experts, educators, and
parents.
Healthy Apps for Kids challenges the software and game development community
to develop tools that drive “tweens” (ages 9-12) to become more active and make
better meal choices. Hundreds answered the call, which is part of Michelle Obama’s
Let’s Move! initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation. Public voting
runs through August 14, with $60,000 in prizes, and winners awarded in September
at the White House.
Obesity is the number one health problem in the U.S. with approximately $150
billion per year spent to treat obesity-related conditions. Over the last 30
years obesity rates tripled, and experts predict the problem could bankrupt our
healthcare system in upcoming decades if trends are not reversed. Children now
may face shorter lifespan expectancy than parents for the first time in history.
We all are responsible for the problem, and must work together to find a solution.
Yet we have to be mindful that children have enough insecurities and unrealistic
expectations placed upon them about their bodies. This is the most technologically
savvy generation in history—whom we often call digital natives—let’s think
through their perspective and engage them on their own terms.
Games engage tweens at the critical age when they’re still developing decision-
making skills while aspiring to take on adult responsibilities. Our “Pick Chow!”
entry in Healthy Apps for Kids, for example, flips conventional wisdom by
encouraging kids to play with food—dragging and dropping ingredients onto a plate
to create USDA approved healthy meals, which they can send to parents via email or
SMS.
The next generation of innovators—PSFK readers of the future—don’t make
distinctions between gaming, social technologies, and other daily activities, these
are just things that they do. Empowering them to become part of the family meal
planning process teaches decision-making skills they will retain in adulthood, while
easing the burden on parents who are often too busy to take into consideration
nutritional content of balanced meals.
We all might not understand the mechanics or appeal of how gaming works, but it’s
not about us—it’s about the kids. They are our future, let’s step into their world and
help them choose to live healthier lives. Please support Apps for Healthy Kids and
Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, and take a minute to imagine what it must
be like to grow up these days.
Games tap into that playful aspect of being human that we all have, perhaps the best
way to tackle the problem of obesity is to be a little more childlike, to tap into our
collective experiences so that we can work together to create a healthier future—
and maybe have a little more fun along the way.

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