Building Health Games through Interdisciplinary Research: Working the Problem

Thursday, 15 July 2010: 10:30 AM

Anne E. Norris, RN, PhD, FAAN
College of Nursing, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL
Eileen M. Smith, MA
Institute of Simulation and Training, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL
Charles E. Hughes, PhD
Electircal Engineering and Computer Science, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL

Purpose: This paper will describe interdisciplinary research efforts to develop health games designed to delay initiation of sexual intercourse by middle school age Latinas.  Latinos are one of the fastest growing minority groups in the US and at the same time, have a high teen pregnancy rate.  The middle school years are an ideal point at which to intervene.  However, children at this age have many competing interests and tend to think at a concrete level of operations.   Games are highly appealing, and new game engine technologies allow the design of interventions that are a good developmental fit for this age group.

Methods: A series of interdisciplinary team meetings were held with experts in digital media, computer science, and nursing to design a potential pregnancy prevention health game for middle school youth.  Examples of different game engines and approaches developed for military and educational applications were reviewed.  Findings from the health behavior, developmental psychology, and computer game literatures were used to (a) inform the review of game engines and approaches, and (b) guide game development decisions.

Results: After working for about a year, we identified two different games to design, identified an afterschool program to partner with for game development and testing, and submitted a multiple PI proposal to NIH for development of our first game.  Key to our success in identifying these health games were face to face, brainstorming sessions in which disciplinary boundaries were ignored, expertise was respected, and an engineering norm (“work the problem”) was embraced.   Barriers included cognitive fatigue or overload (too many options), vocabulary differences, and offices located at different ends of a large University campus.

Conclusion: A unique synergy can arise when different disciplines are brought together.  This synergy helps nurse researchers think outside the box, and find innovative solutions for challenging problems.