Researchers at Yale University are testing whether a humorous card game can help young, black women reduce their chances of contracting HIV and AIDS—part of a new but growing trend examining whether games can spur health behavior changes. Played among three to five people, “One Night Stan” has players draw cards to establish sexual scenarios and then prompts players to discuss how they would react in those settings. The game, developed by play2PREVENT, a gaming lab within the Yale School of Medicine, is still a prototype, but designers are hoping to launch a video game version eventually and bring it to a broader audience. “It’s really about evaluating sexual situations and encounters,” said Kimberly Hieftje, a developer of the game who is an associate research scientist at Yale School of Medicine and deputy director of the play2PREVENT Lab. A growing number of developers, in Connecticut and nationally, are testing whether card, video, online and mobile games are effective tools for getting people to make healthier choices.
Women’s health is the next frontier for a team of medical researchers at Yale who believe video games can be powerful tools in the fight against HIV and other serious diseases. For the last several years, Yale’s Play2Prevent lab has been a hub of collaboration between doctors and computer programmers testing the capacity of games to educate users and, perhaps, even change risky behavior. Their work is part of a fast-growing movement in public health to better understand how virtual gaming environments can improve players’ lives in the real world. The lab’s latest project aims to reduce HIV infections among young African American women. Using a grant from the Women’s Health Research at Yale Pilot Program, the team will spend this year working with groups of black teens and 20-somethings to design a game that’s relevant, entertaining and, hopefully, a model for future public health projects. “This is a really new field,” said Kimberly Hieftje, who holds a PhD in health behavior and is a member of the Play2Prevent team.
Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine want to know if gender affects our ability to put down the french fries and pick up an apple instead. A new study, designed by researcher Tomoko Udo, seeks to understand why women and men tend to react differently to food. Existing research has hinted at neurobiological similarities between addiction and compulsive eating, but Udo want to go deeper. She’s looking for evidence that women are more prone to addictive eating than men. Her work could have big implications for the obesity epidemic and beyond, experts say.
It’s one of the most disturbing trends in American public health: women’s life spans are shrinking in many parts of the U.S., and no one knows why. Women’s longevity took an unprecedented nosedive during the past decade, researchers recently discovered, with their life expectancy tumbling or stagnating in one of every five counties in the country. In Connecticut, where women’s life expectancy exceeds the national average, New London County saw a drop in longevity, while Fairfield and Hartford counties saw significant jumps. The last time life expectancy fell for a large number of American women was in 1918, due to Spanish influenza. While many scientists believe that smoking and obesity are driving the downward spiral, a growing chorus of experts contends that chronic stress may be a key culprit, too – especially the stress of juggling work and family.