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Digital Pharma: Playing healthcare games

Published on 23/06/10 at 04:02pm
HealthSeeker Facebook game
The Boehringer Ingelheim funded HealthSeeker game for Facebook

Boehringer Ingelheim has become the latest pharma company to use an online game to raise disease awareness.

The pharma company provided funding for HealthSeeker, a new Facebook game that aims to help diabetes sufferers make more informed lifestyle decisions about their condition.

The game was developed by the Diabetes Hands Foundation in collaboration with the Boston, US-based Joslin Diabetes Center.

The Foundation’s president Manny Hernandez said: "With HealthSeeker, we wanted to harness the Facebook phenomenon to help people with diabetes make necessary changes in their daily lives.

"I cannot overstate how important a source of support, information and inspiration social networking tools like this one can be for someone living with a chronic condition like diabetes."

Facebook has more than 400 million active users, 50% of whom log-on to the social networking site in any given day.

While the game is available to anyone, HealthSeeker is specifically aimed at helping people with diabetes make more informed lifestyle decisions in a way that complements their daily use of social media.

It sets out ‘missions’ and ‘action steps’ to help players achieve a series of lifestyle goals, such as eating more healthily, achieving an optimal weight and lowering their blood sugar levels.

Part of the game’s appeal lies in its social aspects, which allow HealthSeeker players to enlist their Facebook friends to help them stay motivated about improving their understanding and management of diabetes.

The Facebook game is just one strand of Boehringer’s online awareness raising efforts for diabetes, and follows its recently unveiled digital diabetes hub.

HealthSeeker is one of a smaller, but growing, number of ‘healthy’ online games that have previously focused on areas such as general health and fitnesshaemophilia and glucose monitoring.

Novartis and Facebook malaria awareness

Meanwhile, staying with the football theme Swiss pharma company Novartis is sponsoring a different Facebook game for the next two months.

From June to mid-July, Novartis is lending its support the United Against Malaria’s World Cup Challenge: Kick Malaria game.

Players choose their country and can kick virtual soccer balls to your friends, colleagues, and family members, all the while raising awareness of the fight against malaria.

As part of its sponsorship, Novartis is partnering with Plan International, an organisation in Zambia that grants poor children access to education, health, food and other important resources.

Writing on the United Against Malaria (UAM) website Hans Rietveld, director of global access and marketing for the Novartis Malaria Initiatives, said: “This collaboration will help save the lives of patients in Zambia and help this country come closer to reaching its goal in malaria control.

“Zambia was one of the first African countries in 2009 to reach the 2010 Roll Back Malaria target of reducing malaria mortality by more than 66% compared to 2000. However, there’s still progress to be made, and by sponsoring the UAM Facebook game, Novartis hopes to help Zambia reach the next target of reducing malaria-related deaths by over 75% before 2015.”

Dominic Tyer is web editor for Pharmafocus and and the author of the Digital Pharma blog He can be contacted via email, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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