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Monday, 19 May 2008
Humana Inc. recently launched a new website with the focus on games for health. The website, www.humanagames.com, is part of an initiative created to encourage customers to have better fitness through game technology. The new website launched in conjunction with the fourth annual national Games for Health Conference held in Baltimore, Maryland.“We’re pleased to be moving forward in this exciting new space so quickly with these latest initiatives,” said Paul Puopolo, director of consumer innovation at Humana. “We are committed to creating new ways for people of all ages to reach new levels of health through games and entertainment.”

The site serves as an interactive brochure, providing information on Humana’s programs, mission and vision, as well as details on the health benefits of game technology. Users can explore a discoverable environment that highlights the many applications of games with healthy benefits. Also included are instructions on how to contact Humana’s Games for Health team to partner on future game development or to order games from the program.

At the Games for Health Conference, Humana ran the keynote panel with other health insurers to assess opportunities to use games for improving health. The health insurance company also hosted the “Exergaming Expo Room,” as well as a space for health game developers and others in the industry to discuss new ideas.

The Louisville, KY-based health insurance company piloted the new program with schools near its headquarters. The premise of the study was to combine student fitness and game technology. One of the games, the HorsePower Challenge, had 100 middle school students from five middle schools in Louisville wear pedometers for four weeks. The students level of activity was measured and recorded.

At the end of the challenge, the middle-schoolers had walked a combined 6,364 miles, a 10% increase over the previous four week period. 62% of the participants reported they had increased their amount of exercise and over half said that they had convinced their families to join them. Nearly half (45%) said that they had started eating healthier.

In the game, the students’ logged activity powered a virtual school bus past various world landmarks. Students were able to customize their school’s online bus and their online characters from points they earned by reaching certain milestones. St. Athanasius School won the challenge and received two game bikes. The other schools received gift cards for sporting equipment.

In the latter part of 2007, a similar study was conducted in Florida. This study, which is still running, uses dance pad technology as a variable. Dance pad technology is where an electronic dance mat is substitued for a mouse or a game controller to play the game. These students have continued to expand their programs’ reach throughout the school.

Dr. Miguel Encarnacao, director of Emerging Technology Applications for Humana and architect of its Games for Health initiative said, “If we want to make use of Games to the fullest extent as a medium to improve health and health behavior, we need to continue the interdisciplinary exchange and collaboration between the healthcare industry, research communities, game developers and other stakeholders.”

Humana’s next idea involves a study at three senior facilities around the country. Healthy seniors will be evaluated on exercise games that integrate dance pad technology for an older population.



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