Danya’s Week of Giving

Graphic for Danya’s “Yes We Can” Twitter event, November 25 to December 3. #danyagivesAs the holiday season approaches, we brace ourselves for the messages of retailers opening their doors on Thanksgiving night, encouraging Black Friday shopping, and—should you miss the weekend sales extravaganzas— the arrival of Cyber Monday. During this time, it is easy for us to focus on purchasing trendy gadgets to give our family and friends but with 49 million Americans living in food insecure households, we should remember to focus on giving and supporting our neighbors.

Food insecurity, meaning people do not know where they will find their next meal, is not as uncommon as we may think. Though it is 2013, “hunger still kills more people every year than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined”;  this is not only happening in the developing world but in the United States as well. In the state of Georgia, for example, 20 percent of all Georgians are food insecure, with food stamp recipients increasing by 62 percent in the last three years.

Although we cannot solve issues like poverty, homelessness, and unemployment overnight, we can support and advocate for community organizations that serve food insecure households. Organizations like Feeding America, Second Harvest Heartland, Hosea Feed the Hungry, and the Atlanta Community Food Bank have galvanized corporations and individual community members to advocate for better nutrition policies as well as donate their time and money toward hunger outreach.

This holiday season, the Danya Team will donate 150 cans to benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank. But we won’t stop there. For every retweet and/or mention of #danyagives from November 25 through December 3, we will match it with another canned good to the Atlanta Community Food Bank—all the way up to 3,000 cans. Here are four easy ways to help us:

  1. Follow Danya International on Twitter, @danyaintl
  2. When you see a tweet with the hashtag, #danyagives, retweet it
  3. Share #danyagives with your followers
  4. Dreading post-Thanksgiving shopping? We have a better idea: #GivingTuesday on December 3. How will you get involved? #GivingTuesday

With your help, the team at Danya’s Atlanta Office can make this holiday season a memorable one for those in need.

By Kianta Key

NPIN Hosts AIDS Memorial Quilt at Danya

Photo of a portion of the AIDS Memorial Quilt

CDC NPIN partners are invited to visit the AIDS Memorial Quilt at
Danya International’s Atlanta Office at
9 Corporate Square, Suite 100, Atlanta, GA 30329

On December 1, World AIDS Day, people from around the world will join together in recognition and support of the estimated 34.2 million people living with HIV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Prevention Information Network (CDC NPIN) is one of many organizations that will be commemorating this important day to continue to raise awareness and promote HIV prevention across the United States. This year, from November 18 through December 6, in support of World AIDS Day, NPIN is hosting a portion of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at Danya International’s Atlanta location. The 15 panels on display represent a small section of the more than 48,000 unique and beautifully crafted works collected by the NAMES Project Foundation. The foundation’s mission is “to preserve, care for, and use the AIDS Memorial Quilt to foster healing, heighten awareness, and inspire action in the age of AIDS.”

Photo of a panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

Panel on display at Danya’s Atlanta Office

The idea for the AIDS Memorial Quilt was conceived by AIDS activist Cleve Jones in 1985. His vision was to create a visual commemorative symbol for the many struggling with and dying from AIDS. He wanted to start a national community project that would connect the victims of the disease and their supporters across the nation through an incredible collection of patchwork art. Jones created the first AIDS Quilt panel in 1987, in honor of his close friend Marvin Feldman.

Danya International invites CDC NPIN partners to become a part of the AIDS Quilt community by visiting the Atlanta Office and viewing the collection on display. CDC NPIN and Danya International, as well as others from across the world, will wear the red ribbon and re-pledge their support to the fight against AIDS on Worlds AIDS Day. Together, organizations and individuals from across the globe will use this day to march, speak out, connect on social media, and promote HIV testing, awareness, and prevention.

Check out the CDC NPIN Pinterest board with pictures of the AIDS Quilt display.

How will you show your support on World AIDS Day? Share your support activities with @CDCNPIN on Twitter.

By Tracye Poole

Danya’s CEO Attends Corporate Council on Africa’s 9th Biennial U.S.-Africa Business Summit

cca 2013

The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) hosted its 9th Biennial U.S.-Africa Business Summit on October 8–11, 2013, in Chicago, Illinois. This 4-day conference brought together more than 1,000 public and private-sector representatives from more than 70 countries to discuss the importance of expanding private-sector trade and investment between the United States and the nations of Africa. The conference highlighted the key areas in which our members feel Africa presents its greatest case for investment: agribusiness, energy, health, security, infrastructure, capacity building, information and communications technology (ICT), and finance. Dr. Jeff Hoffman, Danya International’s CEO and former CCA Board Member, participated in the conference and met with several key officials from Ethiopia—where Danya is planning to set up its second East Africa office—including the Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Girma Birru, the Deputy Foreign Minister and State Minister Dawano Kedir, and the Director General of the Ethiopian Investment Agency Fitsum Arega to discuss Danya’s plans for investing and registering as a management consulting firm in Ethiopia. According to Dr. Hoffman, “This conference was a great opportunity to meet with some of the key Ethiopian government officials to help lay the groundwork for expanding Danya’s activities in East Africa. These officials offer a warm welcome to U.S. companies to invest and work in Ethiopia and will assist with navigating the process.” Dr. Hoffman also joined in the signing ceremony between Ethiopian Airlines and Boeing to announce their partnership to double-wire harness production at Ethiopian Airlines’ Wire Harness Facility. He had the opportunity to meet Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, and Kagnew Asfaw, Ethiopian Airlines Regional Director for the Americas, to congratulate them on the continued success of Ethiopian Airlines. “Ethiopian Airlines is one of the shining star companies in Africa and one of the best airlines in the world,” said Dr. Hoffman. “Having flown on one of the new Ethiopian 787 Dreamliners, I can say without a doubt that Ethiopian Airlines is operating a state-of-the-art airline company!” For more information about the CCA Summit see their website: http://www.cvent.com/events/9th-biennial-u-s-africa-business-summit/event-summary-70d14537c5b34b74944fe720f508eb77.aspx

By Melissa Jackson

YouTube Dishes Up Hilarious Halloween Treat


Although new video tools like Vine, Viddy, and video for Instagram continue to pop up, YouTube is still king with more than 4 billion videos viewed each day and 700 shares on Twitter each minute. More and more brands are opting to leverage their power online instead of the traditional Monday Night Football or Nick at Night television commercial. Brands are tapping into YouTube as a message distribution channel, providing attractive content that’s easy to consume and on-time messages that can be viewed at home or on the go.

Just in time for All Hallows’ Eve, Crest toothpaste and Oral-B toothbrushes created a commercial for YouTube that shows children in a focus group tasting new “healthy Halloween treats.” Unfortunately for the excited children, the veggie fruit chews and lollipops came in flavors like asparagus, beet, artichoke, and tofu. But fortunately for nearly 3 million YouTube viewers (I’ve watched it at least five times), the commercial is a hilarious treat and reminder to keep teeth healthy during Halloween’s candy season.

In comments to Today.com, Rishi Dhingra, North America oral care marketing director for Procter & Gamble, the parent company of Crest and Oral-B, stated, “The children’s reactions were absolutely natural and unscripted.”  

Crest and Oral-B poke fun at veggie-flavored Halloween treats (guaranteed to get your colon going in the morning, kids!) and manage to remind parents to use their products to ensure their children’s teeth remain healthy after a night of sugar-filled treats.

The use of YouTube as a distribution channel makes the video—which has all the qualities of one to soon go viral—easy to share on other social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and dishes up a healthful reminder right in time for the target audience. Parents with young children can relate to the honesty (hilarity) of the children in the video and their lack of enthusiasm about eating vegetables (otherwise known as things that sound disgusting). Crest and Oral-B understand that parents are cautious about their kids eating candy but that most want their kids to live a little and enjoy all the sweet goodness that Halloween brings—which is, as the video shows, far better than the alternative. Ultimately, the message (“Nothing is more horrifying than Halloween without candy…thankfully there’s Crest and Oral-B”) resonates with anyone who views it. It is a reminder that a night out on the town (read: neighborhood) consuming candy is okay, as long as you brush your teeth afterward.

The video is just another way health-focused brands and organizations can use YouTube to spread their messages successfully with right-on-time interesting content. And it certainly gives the Danya ghouls and goblins a big grin!

By Kianta Key

Research Resources: Five Opportunities to Increase your Digital Media Knowledge

Are you always looking for ways to learn more about the vast online landscape? Who is using social media? What channels are most popular? What is expected for the future of the industry? Here are five suggested research resource opportunities to help you conduct smart searching and stay current on digital media trends and information.

1.       Go Beyond Google and Extend Your Search Engine Options

Sixty-six percent of the US market uses Google to online search, but if you explore other search engines, you may discover new sources. Yahoo, Bing, and Ask.com, for example, all prioritize and organize content based on their own unique algorithms. The first result on Yahoo may be the 10th search result on Google. Varying your search options allows you to access a larger library of information.

Another way to find different types of online resources is to change the domain of your search. For example, if you are looking for academic resources, you may want to do an Advanced Search and narrow your results to only “.edu” domains. Likewise, if you would like to retrieve only governmental sources, restrict your search to “.gov” results.

Research Resources 1

Click to enlarge

2.       Don’t Just Talk Social Media…Walk Social Media

While those of us in the digital media industry know the benefits of using social media to disseminate messages, we sometimes forget to consume information as well. Set aside at least an hour a day to read the messages of your followers. Take this time to go through all of those RSS subscriptions, also. Whether it’s reading a daily blog, watching an online video posting, or catching up on a site’s discussion board, social media should be used as both a communication and research tool to expand knowledge.

3.       Research the Research Vendors

There are many research vendors who specialize in reporting and analyzing the latest digital trends and information. They can also help discover the best communication channels. These vendors sometimes offer free demos, free reports and white papers, and discounted opportunities to attend webinars on digital media topics.

If you are unfamiliar with many research vendors, check out Greenbook.org. This site lists research firms along with their contact information, description, research specialties, and, in many cases, sample data.

4.       Read Both Mainstream and Traditional Online Publications

Subscribing to online publications, blogs, and tech sites like Mashable or Social Media Examiner is a good way to keep up to date. To ensure you have insight into the top players and the most current information, regularly do a search for the “Top Online Publications” just to see if any new players have emerged.

It is also a good idea to turn to traditional media or less niche sites. National and local news sites, for instance, usually have at least one technology section. It is convenient to read the latest headlines and then simply click a tab over to find out what’s happening on the digital media front as well.

5.       Get Back to the Basics—Books!

We work online, we play online, so it makes sense that most of our research is done online. But, don’t forget to check out available hardcopy and e-book resources. Many times, employers want to encourage this type of learning, so they may purchase a copy of the latest digital hardback. In addition, search for book clubs or groups at your local library to find digital media knowledge-sharing opportunities.

By Tracye Poole

Communication Counts


There is probably no tragedy in life as scarring as the loss of a child. According to a paper in the International Journal of Palliative Nursing, the impact of losing a child is “pervasive and multidimensional” and takes an “emotional, physical, financial, and spiritual” toll on the caregivers. Having a child diagnosed with a life-threatening illness will leave most parents feeling powerless, depressed, and isolated. However, research has shown that it is necessary to break out of the isolative capsule by practicing open communication. Open communication and reflective listening pave the road toward healing the caretakers who have suffered the tragedy of losing a child1.

Shakespeare reminds us,

“Give sorrow words.

The grief that does not speak

whispers the o’re fraught heart

and bids it break.”

Open communication between family members, the sick child, and the health care team ensures a good death, one in which the personal, religious, spiritual, and cultural values of the family and the ill child are respected. Meaningful discussions, including goals and values, fears about death and dying, prognosis, and options for palliative care, have been shown to facilitate coping with death toward the end of life and during bereavement2,3. Better communication protects against feeling helpless, powerless, and hopeless, and it gives the ill child a sense of control, inner peace, and tranquility, resulting in the improvement of tangible patient outcomes, such as “reducing psychological trauma symptoms, depression, and anxiety [and] shortening ICU length of stay.”4

Danya International recently contributed an editorial piece on the topic of open communication in palliative care. In it, three experts in the field were interviewed: Sarah Friebert, MD, Director of the Haslinger Family Pediatric Palliative Care Center at Akron Children’s Hospital; Mary Ann McCabe, Ph.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, George Washington University School of Medicine; and Lisa Delong, parent and author of Blood Brothers: A Memoir of Faith and Loss While Raising Two Sons with Cancer. After Dr. McCabe and Lisa discussed the importance of open communication in helping the ill child develop a relationship with the caretakers based on trust and the comfort of knowing that there are no topics of discussion that are off boundaries, Lisa gave us insight into how to start open communication with an ill child. She said that taking cues from her son Justin and finding quiet moments for communication are ideal. Lisa and Dr. Friebert then broached the subject of talking to well siblings of the ill child, and both agreed that it is imperative that the siblings are included in discussions about the illness to alleviate any uneasiness or concern related to the disease. Lastly, Dr. McCabe ended by saying that although families may be apprehensive about open communication, thinking that it will upset the ill child, it is in reality the avoidance of these topics that leads the ill child to feel isolated and withdrawn.

It is evident that open and honest communication between family members, the ill child, and the health care team is an indispensable tool to recovering from having a loved one diagnosed with a life-threatening illness or even losing them. Although the emotional anguish brought on by such a tragedy is immense, open communication can provide the buoyance necessary to stay hopeful and positive and to do what is best for the ill child.

Danya has created a suite of resources created to offer guidance and support for communicating about terminal illness and death called Communication Counts. Communication Counts offers three distinct and separate toolkits, tailored to the stage of the illness the child is experiencing: “Supporting Your Child and Family During Diagnosis and Treatment,” “Supporting Your Child and Family While Transitioning to Supportive Care,” and “Supporting Your Family Through Bereavement.” Danya’s training manuals and guides, developed with the help of scientists and an advisory panel of experts, are now available for free download here. Organizations can purchase the resources here. In addition, our full-length resource videos are available for viewing on Danya’s YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/danyatube. We invite you to explore these resources and benefit from them.

By Cynthia Baker


1.                   Balducci, L. (2012). Death and dying: What the patient wants. Annals of Oncology, 23(3), 56–61.
2.                  Milberg, A., & Strang, P. (2011). “Protection Against Perceptions of Powerlessness and Helplessness during Palliative Care: The Family Members’ Perspective.” Palliative & Supportive Care, 9(3), 251–62. ProQuest. Web. 1 Aug. 2013.
3.                  Anderson, W., Kools, S., & Lyndon, A. (2013). Dancing around death: Hospitalist-patient communication about serious illness. Qualitative Health Research, 23(1), 3–13.
4.                 Levin, T. T., M.B., B.S., Moreno, B., M.A., Silvester, W., M.B., B.S., & Kissane, D. W., M.D. (2010, July-August). End-of-life communication in the intensive care unit. General Hospital Psychiatry, 32(4), 433–442.

Women + Public Health + Social Media: Announcing a Live Google+ Hangout for Social Media Week ‘13

SMWeek 13

Danya International, Inc., is bringing public health to the 2013 Social Media Week party with the Google+ Hangout, Engaging Women in Public Health Through Social Media on Tuesday, September 24 at 2 p.m. EST.

The Danya Digitalists, our special in-house team devoted to all things digital all the time, gathered a multi-generational group composed of women who are social media and public health experts and influencers to share best practices, cutting-edge information, and perspectives for engaging women in public health through social media. The Hangout’s panelists include:

  • Rebecca Aguilar: Emmy award-winning reporter and social media coach (@RebeccaAguilar)
  • Barbara Ficarra, RN: HealthIn30.com founder, health educator, and Huffington Post contributor (@BarbaraFicarra)
  • Dr. Sandra Ford: Director of the DeKalb County (Georgia) Board of Health (@HealthyDeKalb)
  • Michele Late: American Public Health Association, Executive Editor of The Nation’s Health (@michelelate)
  • Pam Moore: Expert in Google+, Facebook, and social business (@PamMktgNut)
  • Patricia Redsicker: Healthcare writer and content marketing expert (@predsicker)
  • Elin Silveous: Entrepreneur and advocate in health and social media (@ElinSilveous)

Erin Edgerton Norvell, Danya’s Senior Director for Communication Strategy and Digital and the moderator for this event, said, “We’re excited about taking our Social Media Week event to the digital streets. It’s also a great opportunity to highlight women who understand the impact of social media in public health.”

Our panel of experts will answer your questions about what channels and forums they have used to communicate successfully with women about health, the public health topics most discussed by women online, and preparing your social media resources for reaching women in the future, among others.

So jump into the conversation on the Google+ page, share your questions and thoughts with @DanyaIntl on Twitter using the #W4PH (that’s short for “Women for Public Health”), or email the event’s coordinator, Carlos Chapman, for more details. We look forward to hanging out with you!

About Social Media Week

Social Media Week is a leading media platform and worldwide event with local presence and global reach across five continents, including Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and Asia. Because of the shift we are experiencing and the changes happening in our lives, society, culture, and business, our mission is to capture, curate, and share the most meaningful ideas, trends, and best practices with regard to technology and social media’s impact on business, society, and culture. For more information, visit www.socialmediaweek.org

By Kianta Key

World Breastfeeding Week Showcases a Structural Approach for Public Health Initiatives

It seems that the “secret formula” for the perfect public health initiative or campaign is sometimes all too mysterious in our field of work. Even the most theory-based, well-funded, and culturally popular topics can fall flat sometimes because of competing initiatives, consumer attention, political sensitivities, and more. However, at other times initiatives seem almost to grow feet on their own and progress with little nudging—regardless of how well built they may be. So this week we’re taking a look at the topic of breastfeeding to showcase just one successful recipe—built on a structure of specific observance days, network-based calls to actions, and future-focused policy strategies—for bringing light to public health issues in a meaningful way.

The Cause for Action

Breastfeeding is a topic with a rich cultural history across time, throughout the world, and across disciplines. It inspires passion and controversy. But for women making the decision about whether or not to breastfeed, any debate or precedence is replaced by one central question: What is best for my baby and me?

Years of public health research has concluded that for most mothers and babies, breast milk is the best option. It is important to point out here that the decision to breastfeed is very personal and depends on the mother, her baby, her family, and her circumstances.

Most mothers in the United States start out breastfeeding their babies. According to the Breastfeeding Report Card 2013, published by CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, 77 percent of U.S. infants begin their lives breastfeeding. Of these infants, only 49 percent were still breastfeeding at 6 months.

Why do women quit breastfeeding? And what can help encourage these women to continue breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months of their babies’ lives? For many, a peer counselor and/or family support can make all the difference.

Building Awareness with Observance Days and Networks

In an effort to build awareness around breastfeeding, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action established World Breastfeeding Week, which began in 1992 as an official observance day and has evolved into a full week of commemoration and celebration. This year’s World Breastfeeding Week, scheduled August 1–7, tapped into the valuable tactic of social and environmental support, and focused on the importance of peer counseling for women who want to breastfeed their babies. Women who have support are more likely to breastfeed their babies longer. This year’s theme, “Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers” celebrates peer counseling and support.

Most health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association, recommend that babies breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months of life and continue to breastfeed (while parents introduce cereal and other solid foods to their diets) for at least 12 months. Many women start out breastfeeding, but do not continue for a full 6 months because they lack support, have difficulty breastfeeding once they return to work, experience pain, feel they are producing too little milk, and so forth.

World Breastfeeding Week’s call-to-action is network-based and focuses not only on mothers, but also their entire support system for greatest impact. Lactation consultants and peer counselors truly serve as health educators for breastfeeding women. They help women who want to breastfeed by providing practical and scientific information and giving them the moral support they need to follow through on their decision to breastfeed. Family members, partners, friends, clinicians, childcare providers, and employers also can help women who are breastfeeding.

Leveraging Other Influencers

Designing a successful public health initiative often can be affected by the amount of support given by trusted organizations, and bolstered by policies and programs that make it more future-ready. The World Breastfeeding Week, for example, is supported by many organizations, including UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Breastfeeding, as a general topic, also is a focus of policy and program initiatives, including the Healthy People objectives. By 2020, Healthy People aims to increase the proportion of infants ever breastfed from 74 percent to 81.9 percent, and the proportion of infants breastfed through 6 months from 43.5 percent to 60.6 percent with collaboration, empowered consumers, and community and partner resources.

Similarly, in her 2011 Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin suggested the following ways to improve breastfeeding rates and increase support for breastfeeding:

  • Communities should expand and improve programs that provide mother-to-mother support and peer counseling.
  • Healthcare systems should ensure that maternity care practices provide education and counseling on breastfeeding. Hospitals should become more “baby-friendly,” by taking steps like those recommended by the UNICEF/WHO’s Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.
  • Clinicians should ensure that they are trained to properly care for breastfeeding mothers and babies. They should promote breastfeeding to their pregnant patients and make sure that mothers receive the best advice on how to breastfeed.
  • Employers should work toward establishing paid maternity leave and high-quality lactation support programs. Employers should expand the use of programs that allow nursing mothers to have their babies close by so they can feed them during the day. They also should provide women with break time and private space to express breast milk.
  • Families should give mothers the support and encouragement they need to breastfeed.

As the 2013 World Breastfeeding Week comes to a close, we all can pitch in as consumers and help women who want to breastfeed their babies—all while respecting their decisions—during the next year. Additionally, as health communications and public health professionals, we can take a note from the work being done in this field and strive to create cross-sector, culturally sensitive, and structured interventions that will have the greatest impact to shape healthy futures.

To learn more about World Breastfeeding Week and the organization that sponsors the week, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding, visit http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/. You can find a list of events planned for World Breastfeeding Week at http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/pledges.shtml

By Stacy Fentress

Takeaways from Boston’s Games for Health Conference

Several Danya employees from Atlanta, GA, and Silver Spring, MD, attended the Games for Health Conference in Boston, MA, in late June. As I outlined in a recent Danya blog post, serious games and games for health are growing fields and are showing great potential for behavior change and improved health outcomes. After attending the conference, I was further convinced that games can be a powerful (and fun!) tool for both public health and health care professionals. People are currently creating games for nearly every health issue from chronic diseases to behavioral health and for various purposes from personal health improvement and treatment adherence to workforce training. Right now, the possibilities seem unlimited. Here are my five takeaways from the Games for Health Conference.

1. Serious games need to be seriously fun. As a health communicator with a public health background, I immediately think about the outcome the game is designed to achieve when I think about games for health. Games designed to improve health need to be effective, but the very premise of a game is to have fun. If a game isn’t fun, people won’t play it.

Depending on the audience of your game, fun may be even more vital. As Michael Fergusson, game designer at Ayogo explained, “A child’s illness and treatment is serious, but kids seriously need to have fun.” So, while serious games absolutely need to be designed around sound theory and accurate health information, it is just as important that they are also built to be engaging and entertaining to the targeted player.

2. Games can change the world. One of the most interesting sessions I went to discussed two games that use crowdsourcing to tackle huge public health challenges. The first is a game to help identify malaria cases called Malaria Spot. According to CDC, in 2010 there were about 219 million cases of malaria around the world and 660,000 deaths due to malaria. Currently, the process for correctly identifying a malaria case involves a certified health professional counting parasites in a blood sample, which can take up to 30 minutes. Since there are millions of cases, you can imagine the backlog in even identifying cases, let alone getting people treatment. The Malaria Spot concept, designed by Spanish scientist Miguel Luengo-Oroz, transforms this identification process into a game where players hunt real malaria parasites in a blood sample uploaded to the Internet. Luengo-Oroz has done the math and when 13 players hunt the same blood sample for 1 minute, the accuracy of identifying a malaria case is the same as an expert. He has also calculated that only 1% of current video game play time is all that it would take to identify all the cases of malaria worldwide! While there are still several questions to address by way of legality and ethics before this game can be fully implemented, this game could seriously change the world! To help support this creative solution and hunt malaria, visit the Malaria Spot website.

A similar idea was presented by Amy Carton of Cancer Research UK. The country’s leading cancer research center has a huge amount of data about cancer. While some data can be analyzed by computers, much of the data needs to be analyzed by human eyes; with limited human resources, they’ve got more data than they can analyze. To help solve this big data problem, Cancer Research UK is currently developing a game where players will be helping to analyze their data. The catch is, they want to create such a fun and engaging game that you will want to play it for fun’s sake, and you may never even know you’re helping their scientists unlock invaluable scientific findings.

3. The best games aren’t always digital. Another session I attended that really had me leaning forward was about non-digital games. Yes, you heard me right; board games and games like charades are not completely a thing of the past—who knew? The game developer Max Seidman, who works at Dartmouth’s Tiltfactor Lab, described a game called RePlay Health, which is a real-life strategy game designed to help people learn about the health care system. Through a guided role-playing game, players balance physical activities and their character’s health. Through different choices players must make that depend on their health, they can learn how all of the different pieces of a health care system work together. This game was designed not only to improve understanding of our (often confusing) health care system, but also to foster empathy among players.

So, while our world is undoubtedly becoming more and more digital, it is important to remember that mobile games aren’t the only option. In fact, one game created by Tiltfactor Lab found that their board game version had significantly better outcomes than their mobile version. The value of face-to-face interaction during a game is something that can’t quite be replicated in a digital game. While digital games often rely on feedback systems using complex formulas, the real-life interaction in non-digital games allows for a game to be fully understood by players, teaching systems thinking and potentially leading to richer outcomes.

4. Games are about an experience. An idea that was mentioned throughout the conference was that games are about creating and sharing experiences. This was most clearly communicated during the keynote presentation by Palmer Luckey of Oculus VR (i.e., “virtual reality” for all you non-gamers). Luckey created a cutting-edge virtual reality (VR) headset that is more lightweight and affordable than previous VR systems and helps draw the player even farther into the simulated environment created by the game. The realm of VR is pretty remarkable; it has the potential to achieve immersion, sensations, and even emotions unlike any other media platform. For example, a VR game can create a falling experience like no other video game. The players feel as if they themselves are falling, not an avatar representing them, and this can elicit a real falling sensation and even the emotional response of fear.

To me, a health communicator and inexperienced gamer, video games aren’t always very interesting because they can seem unrealistic. As Luckey describes VR, this “ultimate medium” has huge potential to achieve behavior change because it can engage a wider range of players with the reality factor and it has the potential to elicit emotions, a powerful behavior change tool. Visit the Oculus VR website for more information on the new headset and the growing realm of virtual reality.

5. Developing a good game takes a team, maybe even an army. While playing some games may be relatively easy, I learned that creating a game is certainly not simple. Especially in the serious games space, creating a game that aims to change behavior and impact health is quite complicated. Not only do you need an experienced game developer, as well as subject matter and behavior change experts in the specific health topic being addressed, but some of the most successful health games also gather substantial input from their target populations.

The creators of Remission2, the recently released update of a game designed to help kids adhere to cancer treatment, spent a significant amount of time talking to children with cancer about how they view cancer, how they view chemotherapy, what they would want to do to cancer, and more to create a game that correctly aligns with player beliefs and desires. While the first version of the game did achieve positive biological outcomes, including increased antibiotics and chemotherapy in the patient’s blood, Remission2 is already performing better in the areas of positive emotions, self-efficacy, and shifts in attitudes, thanks to user input.

Similarly, PlayForward, created by Yale’s Play2Prevent Initiative, is a game to prevent HIV in high-risk youth populations. The creators of the game discussed with teens in depth about their goals, community, and interests. As a result, this game has been shown to effectively improve protective factors among players.

The Games for Health Conference was certainly an enlightening one for our team members, and we’re excited to continue our own research and development within the games and health field. What are some of your favorite serious games? How are they fun, changing the world, or non-digital, and what type of experience do they provide you on your path to better health?

By Katie Mooney

Interactive Customized Advertisements for Health

How many advertisements do you see every day? Some researchers estimate that the average person sees as many as 5,000 advertisements per day, while others report that exposure is probably closer to 250 ads daily. Regardless of the actual number of ads you’re seeing, Bauer and Greyser suggest that most of us only really connect with a select few out of the hundreds we’re presented. Public health agencies seeking to stand out from the crowd with innovative, out-of-the-box campaigns should strongly consider developing an interactive custom ad for a real impact on their target audiences.

With the help of social sharing and advancing technologies, more and more brands are using technology to create interactive ads that deliver these enhanced, real-impact experiences. These types of ads engage through two-way communication. Some draw people in by soliciting a direct response, requesting some type of action from the participant, while other forms inspire engagement through personalized and localized elements. The following interactive ads are some of our favorites here at Danya that we think have been successful because creators utilized unique materials, chose unusual locations, or took advantage of new technologies to make a unique connection with their viewer:

Lenticular Printing by ANAR Foundation

The Aid to Children and Adolescents at Risk (ANAR) Foundation used lenticular printing to show different anti-child-abuse messages to viewers of different heights. This technology allows different images to be seen depending on the vantage point. The billboard is designed to show the message “If somebody hurts you, phone us and we’ll help you” along with the ANAR Foundation’s telephone number when viewed by individuals (children) less than 1.3 meters (approximately 4 feet 3 inches). The message to adults reads, “Sometimes child abuse is only visible to the child suffering it.”

Worms Eating Dough Show “Crack Consumes”

The Brazilian alliance of Partnership for a Drug Free America’s posted several billboards made of dough at “Galeria do Rock,” a popular place for youth. As observers walked by, they saw worms eat through the advertisement, illustrating the point that “Crack Consumes.”

Interactive Long Film

The Australian Air Force used an interactive long film. On the site, users can click on almost any object in the video to receive more information.

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Coca-Cola’s “Small World Machines”

“Small World Machines” invited Indians and Pakistanis to interact by completing simple tasks like waving, touching hands, drawing a peace sign, or doing a dance to receive a Coke. Participants could watch each other complete the engagement because of 3D touchscreen technology that projected and captured a streaming live video feed onto the vending machine screen.

Volkswagen’s “Slowmercial”

DDB Brussels illustrates a new concept, the slowmercial, a form of television advertisement where the action on the screen has little to no movement. The creators of the commercial are trying to develop a solution that counteracts the fast-forwarding that is now common for DVR television users. Because of the static nature of the slowmercial, even when viewers fast-forwarded the commercial, they will still see the ad as if it were developed for print.

 HeartRescue Simulates Cardiac Arrest

The HeartRescue Project, funded by the Medtronic Foundation, has developed an interactive online video that gives viewers a choice about what actions to take to progress the video and save a life. The creators are illustrating to viewers the steps they should take if faced with a sudden cardiac arrest situation.

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Obviously, some of these ads were very risky (did you see the worms in the Partnership for America ad?). However, perhaps the message to public health is to take some risk. Interactive ads are a rich medium that allow designers to be inventive and to think about the unexpected. Although risky may not always translate into an effective message delivery, these ads do prove that more often than not, interactive ads can create buzz, catalyze interaction, and provide opportunities for creative solutions that reach audiences in new ways. These elements are crucial in the competitive world of message delivery, and public health should take advantage.

By Tracye Poole