Combating Health Inequalities Using IT: The Case of Games for Controlling Diabetes and Obesity in Chicago’s South Side

  • N. WickramasingheEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Communications in Computer and Information Science book series (CCIS, volume 907)


Diabetes and obesity are serious chronic diseases that are increasing at alarming escalating rates globally; however lower socio-economic groups of populations are over represented and current attempts to stem such increases have not proved to be successful. This paper proffers the potential of serious games that invoke social influence dynamics and are developed around culturally and socially relevant contexts as a way to address this disturbing and growing problem. This paper begins with a brief review of how serious games can be used as an effective learning and communication medium as well as outlining the benefits of social influence before applying the constructs to an Urban Health (Chicago) context. The paper demonstrates how, in this context, games can be used as a pedagogical tool to foster superior learning and understanding. Playing games or using other simulation-oriented applications can offer a visual portrayal of situations, from which this population can garner understanding and applicability to clinical constructs and knowledge.


Diabetes Obesity Serious games Health inequality Urban health Gaming 


  1. 1.
    Gee, J.P.: What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Palgrave Macmillan, New York (2003)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Klein, J.H.: The abstraction of reality for games and simulations. J. Oper. Res. Soc. 36(8), 671–678 (1985)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Prensky, M.: Digital Game-Based Learning. McGraw-Hill, New York (2001)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Stapleton, A.J., Taylor, P.C.: Physics and playstation too: learning physics with computer games. In: Australian Institute of Physics 15th Biennial Congress, Darling Harbour, NSW, 8–11 July 2002Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Herz, J.C.: 50,000,000 star warriors can’t be wrong. Wired (10) (2002)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Jenkins, H.: Game design as narrative architecture. In: Wardrip-Fruin, N., Harrigan, P. (eds.) First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, Game. MIT Press, Cambridge (2004). Accessed Feb 2018
  7. 7.
    The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (2006). Accessed 8 Oct 2006
  8. 8.
    Howell, K.: Games for health conference 2004: issues, trends, and needs unique to games for health. Cyberpsychology Behav. 8(2), 103–109 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Lowood, H.: Game studies now, history of science then. Games Cult. 1(1), 78–82 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Hero, J.O., Blendon, R.J., Zaslavsky, A.M., Campbell, A.L.: Understanding what makes Americans dissatisfied with their health care system: an international comparison. Health Aff. 35(3), 502–509 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Pearlstein, S.: Free market philosophy doesn’t always work for health care. Washington Post, 8 June 2005Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Cain, L.P.: Annexation. In: The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society (2005). Accessed 8 Sept 2016Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Wasserman, S., Faust, K.: Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1994)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Kneidinger, B.: Facebook und Co. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden (2010).
  15. 15.
    Granovetter, M.S.: The strength of weak ties. Am. J. Soc. 78(6), 1360–1380 (1973)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Rostila, M.: A resource-based theory of social capital for health research: can it help us bridge the individual and collective facets of the concept? Soc. Theory Health 9(2), 109–129 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Christakis, N.A., Fowler, J.H.: The spread of obesity in a large social network over 32 years. N. Engl. J. Med. 357(4), 370–379 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Cohen-Cole, E., Fletcher, J.M.: Is obesity contagious? Social networks vs. environmental factors in the obesity epidemic. J. Health Econ. 27(5), 1382–1387 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Gershenson, C.: Epidemiology and social networks. Sociol. Methods 22(1), 199–200 (2011)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Hammond, R.A.: Social influence and obesity. Curr. Opin. Endocrinol. Diab. Obes. 17(5), 467–471 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Kaplan, A.M., Haenlein, M.: Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media. Bus. Horiz. 53(1), 59–68 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Arnaboldi, V., Passarella, A., Tesconi, M., Gazze, D.: Towards a characterization of egocentric networks in online social networks. In: Proceedings of the Sixth International Workshop on Mobile and Networking Technologies for Social Applications, Crete (2011)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Boyd, D.M., Ellison, N.: Social network sites: definition, history, and scholarship. J. Comput.-Med. Commun. 13(1), 210–230 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Hwang, K.O., et al.: Social support in an internet weight loss community. Int. J. Med. Inform. 79(1), 5–13 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Maloney-Krichmar, D., Preece, J.: A multilevel analysis of sociability, usability, and community dynamics in an online health community. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 12(2), 1–32 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Ma, X., Chen, G., Xiao, J.: Analysis of an online health social network. In: IHI 2010, pp. 297–306 (2010)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    WHO: Obesity and overweight (2011). Accessed 11 July 2011
  28. 28.
    Hyyppä, M.T.: Healthy Ties. Springer, Dordrecht (2010). Scholar
  29. 29.
    Steiny, D.F.: Networks and persuasive messages. Commun. Assoc. Inform. Syst. 24(1), 473–484 (2009)Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    WHO: Obesity: preventing and managing the global epidemic. Report of a WHO consultation. WHO Technical report Series 894, Geneva (2000)Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    McNeill, F.: A desistance paradigm for offender management. Criminol. Crim. Justice 6(1), 39–62 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Fowler, J.H., Christakis, N.A.: Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study. BMJ 337, a2338 (2008). Scholar
  33. 33.
  34. 34.
    Tetlock, P.E., Kim, J.: Accountability and judgment in a personality prediction task. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Attitudes Soc. Cogn. 52, 700–709 (1987)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Nash, S.S.: Learning objects, learning object repositories, and learning theory: preliminary best practices for online courses. Interdiscip. J. Knowl. Learn. Objects 1, 217–228 (2005)Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Nash, S.S.: Social impact “Serious Games” and online courses (2005). Accessed 5 Sept 2005
  37. 37.
    Peffers, K., Tuunanen, T., Rothenberger, M.A., Chatterjee, S.: A design science research methodology for information systems research. J. Manag. Inform. Syst. 24(3), 45–77 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Hevner, A.R., et al. (2004).

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Epworth HealthCare and Deakin UniversityMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations