Public Health Fun! The use of games in Public Health Education

Who said that studying Public Health is only about spending hours studying textbooks? It seems there are more fun ways to learn, or at least that’s the idea! I was not aware of the existence of Public Health Games till recently, when I was sent the link to the Last Straw, a board game on social determinants of health! As the website informs us:

“The Last Straw! is a fun and exciting teaching tool on the social determinants of health. The game has three objectives:

  • to promote discussion about the social determinants of health;
  • to help players build empathy with marginalized people and gain an awareness of players’ own social location;
  • to encourage learning in a fun and supportive environment.

This game seems to be quite popular, with publications, videos and other information around it. It even has versions in french and spanish!

I would love to try it out but -as it does not come for free, I thought I would try my luck with something else!

Google did not disappoint me (almost never does!) so here are some links to online Public Health games I found. I will not reveal much about them- that would spoil half the fun!

1. Outbreak at Watersedge: This game was developed by the Midwest Center for Life-Long-Learning in Public Health (MCLPH) of School of Public Health of the University of Minnesota and is described in the opening screen as follows:  “The need for public health professionals has never been greater. But what is “Public Health” anyway? This interactive game will introduce you to the world of public health as you help discover the source of the outbreak that has hit the small community of Watersedge and stop it before more residents get sick”.
Appears a bit slow and too simple at the beginning. I wouldn’t mind playing more but I had to start all over again when I was not active for some time…
2. The Great Flu:This one comes from the Erasmus MC University Medical Center, Rotterdam. It looks fancier than the one above which makes it (inevitably?) more complicated. Choose the virus, choose the response, manage the budget, monitor infections and deaths…breathe! I have to go back equipped with a fresh head and fresh coffee!
3. The POD Game: Developed by the Center for Advancement of Distance Education of the School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago and “simulates a bioterrorism response focused on training thousands of people to dispense mass amounts of drugs and vaccines in the wake of an anthrax attack”. My performance on this one has been really disappointing, but perhaps that has something to do with the fact that I skipped the training mode…
For the more old-fashioned amongst you, there are more board games out there, apart from the Last Straw!
Pandemic: This is a game where everyone has to work together to fight four disease outbreaks in the world. Apart from English, this game is also available in French, German, Chinese, Korean, Polish, Czech, Slovakian. Dutch, Finnish, Swedish, Japanese. Unless I missed something, this does not seem to have been developed by an educational institution, but seems to be of educational value according to at least one PH scientist who has tried it!
And did you know that even a Medical Monopoly exists? Since 1979, for that matter! I  am too, preplaxed, as  this person by the fact that the winner is the one who fills the hospital with patients!

Public Health games- a new world to me but certainly not to everyone!  The Center for Advancement of Distance Education mentioned above has a whole website dedicated to public health games and has also developed a virtual public health world in Second Life!

Let me know what is your opinion about the games I mention in the post or other ones you might be aware of.

What do you think about the use of games in Public Health education? What might be the benefits of using them and what should we be wary of?

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1 Response

  1. Jillian says:

    I played the Great Flu game and I really liked it! I had played a game similar on my boyfriends phone and I thought it was really neat! I think playing games in Public Health Education makes it real, when you just learn from reading things it doesn’t really seem as real. Using these games show how much really go into protecting us and how important it is to keep things from getting as bad. We should be wary because you know how to prevent it now but you also know how to further it as long as well. Over all I enjoyed it an think its a very good idea to use these!

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