Virtual Worlds as a Tool to Facilitate Weight Management for Young People

Michael James Taylor, Dave Taylor, Myutan Kulendran, Paul Gately, Ara Darzi

Abstract


Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the UK, with around 20% of children aged 10-11 being overweight or obese. Lifestyle interventions can be effective, but there is limited evidence of their effectiveness in delivering sustained weight loss. The present research explored potential of web-based, 3-dimensional virtual worlds (VWs) for facilitation of weight-management, well-being and patient and public involvement (PPI) for young people. Attendees of a weight management camp took part in induction sessions for use of the VW of Second Life. All participants successfully learned how to interact with one another and navigate the virtual environment. Participant appraisals of Second Life were varied. Some found it complicated and difficult to use, and some found it fun and the majority stated that they would choose to use VWs again. There is considerable potential for use of VWs to promote weight management, and Second Life or a similar VW could be used to deliver this. Potential barriers include members of the target sample having limited access to computers with necessary system requirements for running VWs, and that some may find VW-based educational experiences unappealing or challenging to navigate. For some however, VWs may provide a useful mode for provision of education, PPI and support relating to weight management.

Keywords


Obesity; Childhood Obesity; Virtual Worlds; Second Life

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The full website for the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research can be found at: http://jvwresearch.org