Video Games Fights Childhood Obesity

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From Your Health Journal…..”Today’s review is from The Sentinel about a 21 year old who had a great idea about how to combat childhood obesity. The author, Jessica D’Amico did a wonderful job with the story, and I recommend all of you visiting The Sentinel site (link provided below) to read the complete story. Dennis Ai learned from experience what it takes to fight childhood obesity, as he went through it himself. He admitted he had a horrible diet growing up, talked about being the ‘fattest’ kid in his class, along with being picked last for PE when teams were needed. Dennis decided it was time for a change. He began running home from school and even joined the track team. Now, a student in college, he is fit, but finds himself playing a lot of video games. As a computer science major, it dawned on Dennis that if he could create a video game that engaged kids in seeking out healthier foods, it could help to chip away at the obesity epidemic. Please visit The Sentinel site to read the complete article.”

From the article…..

Student’s idea makes it to national contest’s semifinals; votes needed to bring virtual world to life

If it seems that 21-year-old Edison resident Dennis Ai has a good handle on what it takes to help combat the national issue of obesity among kids, it’s because he learned from experience.

“I actually went through childhood obesity myself,” he said, recalling his formative years. “I would eat like 20 potato skins a night. I had a pretty terrible diet. By the time I was in fourth grade, I was the fattest kid in my class.”

With that unhappy distinction came negative peer experiences, such as being chosen last for teams in gym class, and getting picked on by other kids.

“When you add it all up, it really hurts, especially as a kid,” he said.

One day, Ai decided it was time for a change. He started off by running home from school every day. Eventually, he joined the track team. By eighth grade, he was also a member of the crosscountry, tennis and swim teams at John Adams Middle School, and was able to leave behind the days of excess weight and poor health habits.

Fast forward to the present, with a fit and healthy Ai studying computer science and economics at Northwestern University in Illinois. While on break last summer, he found himself taking to video games, playing Diablo 3 constantly.

“I was sitting there playing this for eight hours a day, and I was addicted to it,” he said.

Although some may have seen Ai’s gaming as a waste of time, that ended up being far from the case. Instead, an idea was born.

It dawned on Ai that if he could create a video game that engaged kids in seeking out healthier foods, it could help to chip away at the obesity epidemic.

“Kids especially love games, because they can project themselves into the story,” he said.

After speaking with various experts on the subject and conducting research on behavior change techniques, he began assembling a team to make the health-promoting game a reality.

Always one to think big, Ai founded a company called JiveHealth, with the goal of creating a multitude of games that would meet the company’s mission of halving the number of children who are overweight or obese by 2016.

His team consists of Tom Denison, vice president of marketing and business development; Nathan Wangler, game designer; Hailey Schmidt, game artist; and Chris Yenko, software engineer. Along with running the show, Ai is the programmer for the yet-to-be-named game.

To read the full story…..Click here