A staggering 1 in 3 children in the United States are considered “obese.” Thanks to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, the race is on to end this epidemic within a generation.
In the spirit of President Obama’s call for innovation, the USDA decided to take a different approach toward fighting obesity- gaming & competition.
The administration used the new Challenge.Gov platform to launch the Apps for Healthy Kids Competition in an attempt to engage software developers, game designers, students, and other innovators in developing fun, interactive tools that promote healthy eating and physical activity. Entrants were instructed to use recently released USDA nutrition data which was made public through the Open Government Initiative.
It is encouraging to see the USDA utilizing innovative platforms like Challenge.Gov. The site enables collaboration between the government and public to find solutions to our nation’s most pressing issues, in this case using newly released open data. These seem like many of the ingredients I personally believe are necessary to more comprehensively and effectively address our challenges.
I am quite impressed with some of the apps and games that came out of the competition. However, it will be interesting to see whether they are actually successful at changing behavior and encouraging better nutritional choices. I have yet to read about if and how this will be measured. This is definitely something I will be inquiring and posting about in the future.
Some brief highlights:
Trainer (Winner): Game in which the player cares for and trains with a virtual pet. According to the website, “The primary goal of Trainer is to give players the opportunity to discover, seek and share health information. Through experiential learning, Players will quickly gain insight into how nutrition and fitness impacts their daily lives – removing many of the stigmas surrounding diet and exercise.”
Fritter Critters (Runner-up): Game that teaches children how to make good eating and nutritional choices through feeding their virtual pet. The site includes meters that display daily nutritional requirements and shows how these requirements are met through the players food choices.
PapayaHead (runner-up): Family meal planning website that enables family members to create profiles customized based on allergies, nutritional requirements, preferences and plan nutritional, inexpensive meals. The site provides tools to help visualize the nutritional value of each meal.