Developing an Obesity Prevention Intervention in Virtual Worlds: The International Health Challenge in Second Life

Sameer Siddiqi, Scherezade K. Mama, Rebecca E. Lee


Virtual worlds (VW) present an exciting range of possibilities for health researchers and practitioners. The value of this technology lies its ability to tap into non-traditional participant pools, to use innovative and effective forms of social interaction, and to facilitate cost-effective solutions to common challenges. The International Health Challenge (IHC) was a health intervention study done entirely in the VW of Second Life (SL) aimed at determining the feasibility and effect of obesity prevention interventions in VWs. The IHC initially started as a strategy to develop a multicultural obesity prevention project in SL as evidenced by a full service build, activities, and participating resident avatars. Using existing resources and extensive social networks, together with volunteer assistance, the IHC flourished into a full scale health intervention with the goals of improving health knowledge, attitudes and behavior among resident avatars. In the absence of clear technological and methodological precedence, our multidisciplinary team developed a novel system of in-world and Web-based interactive measurement tools, data management solutions, and participant recruitment and retention strategies.


methodology; health intervention; virtual worlds; obesity

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