The Incredible Adventures of the Amazing Food Detective is a fun game that promotes healthy eating and physical activity to kids

The Incredible Adventures of the Amazing Food Detective is a fun game that promotes healthy eating and physical activity to kids

United States
Project Summary
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Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The Amazing Food Detective is a unique, fun game that teaches kids about healthier food choices and making physical activity a part of everyday life.

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Plot your innovation within the mosaic of solutions
Which of these barriers is the primary focus of your work?

Insufficient Evidence that Games Improve Health

Which of the principles is the primary focus of your work?

Community Health

If you believe some other barrier or principle should be included in the mosaic, please describe it and how it would affect the positioning of your initiative in the mosaic:

This field has not been completed

What is your signature innovation in one sentence?

The Amazing Food Detective is a unique, fun game that teaches kids about healthier food choices and making physical activity a part of everyday life.

Describe your innovation. What makes your idea unique and different than others doing work in the field?

The Amazing Food Detective is designed with a particular focus on children from 9-10 because they are at a very formative state, developing the habits they may have for the rest of their lives. The evidence shows that if we can get that age group understanding what’s healthy for them in terms of nutrition, activity, habits and behaviors, we can change the course of their health and wellbeing for a lifetime.

Video games are a major part of youth culture. A game that teaches kids about physical activity might seem counterintuitive, but we recognize that we need to reach kids where they are. Kaiser Permanente supports the pediatric recommendation of no more than one to two hours of “screen time” per day, which is why the game automatically shuts off after 20 minutes and reminds kids to get active. This engaging game, with messages about healthy eating and physical activity developed by Kaiser Permanente’s weight-management experts, is an innovative method that hasn’t been tried before.

What barriers exist that are creating the problem your innovation is hoping to address/change?

From 1980 to 2000, the rate of childhood obesity more than doubled; there are now an estimated 9 million overweight or obese children nationwide. As many as 75% will grow up to become overweight or obese adults, at increased risk for more than 35 major diseases. Poor nutrition and lack of physical activity are the two major causes of the rise of childhood obesity, in an era when many schools face a lack of health curricula and decreases in physical education resources and programs.

Delivery Model: How do you implement your innovation and apply it to the challenge/problem you are addressing.

The Amazing Food Detective was designed by Kaiser Permanente weight-management experts to be interactive and entertaining so children will want to play it. The accompanying curriculum meets national standards and puts critical health information in the hands of professional educators in order to reinforce the messages about healthy eating and physical activity and create a classroom culture of healthy food choices and increased physical activity.

The Amazing Food Detective and its companion materials are being distributed through Scholastic, Inc. to more than 5,000 public schools in all Kaiser Permanente regions, and Kaiser Permanente peditricians will use the game and materials with the children and families they see each day. The game can also be played by anyone online at, and the game’s landing page links to Kaiser Permanente’s Kid Wisdom site (, which has printable materials for adults on fitness, nutrition, and child health.

How do you plan to scale your innovation?

We plan an aggressive national campaign to direct kids, parents, and teachers to the free online version of the game and its related resources. This campaign is tied in with Kaiser Permanente’s popular “Thrive” campaign, and supported by appearances in local, regional and national on-air and print media outlets, including Spanish-language outlets. An interactive campaign will include banner ads, links and movie trailer placement on Web sites popular with kids, teachers and parents; a viral ‘friend-to-friend’ campaign to spread the word about the game on blogs and community sites; and outreach to content aggregators and online resource brokers to ensure that the game is included in resource listings and toolkits for parents and teachers. Kaiser Permanente will leverage its existing community partnerships and form new ones in order to promote the game through community events in every region. Examples of partner groups include YMCA, Juvenile Diabetes Groups, and Girls and Boys Clubs.

Provide one sentence describing your impact.

Focus groups showed that kids aged 9 -10 found the game fun and easy to navigate, and retained healthy eating/active living messages after playing.

What impact has your innovation had to date? Exactly who are the beneficiaries of your innovation?

The game was launched in September of 2007, with distribution to over 5,000 schools in Kaiser Permanente communities. While it is still too early to quantitatively assess impact, the main beneficiaries of the Amazing Food Detective are children aged 9-10, who receive crucial information while playing the game that impacts their current and future physical health, self-esteem, and even academic performance. Obese children suffer higher levels of depression than pediatric chemotherapy patients, and report “low quality of life” at five times the rate of non-obese children; overweight children who develop type 2 diabetes may have heart attacks and need coronary-bypass surgery before they reach age 30; and academic performance has been linked to weight in some studies, with the finding that obese students perform less well academically than average-weight students.

How many people have you served directly?

We conservatively estimate that 600,000 students will be impacted by the game in the first year. This number does not include the impact of the online version of the game, which is being promoted with aggressive media and interactive campaigns, nor the impact of its use by Kaiser Permante’s pediatricians to educate the children and families they see every day. Kaiser Permanente will evaluate impact using several measures, including hits to the online game site; hits to the Kid Wisdom site (, which provides additional information for adults; the number of calls to 1-800-FoodSpy, and teachers’ responses to a short survey about how they used the game and related materials (teachers who respond will be entered into a sweepstakes to win gift certificates to buy free sports equipment for their schools, which should boost participation).

How many people have you served indirectly?

The people served indirectly will include parents whose children have played the game and bring home materials to share, and children who find the game online through siblings and friends. If we estimate 1.5 parents and .5 siblings for each of the 600,000 children served directly, 900,000 parents and 300,000 additional children will be served indirectly.

Please list any other measures reflective of the impact of your innovation

Initial results from a Harris poll commissioned by Kaiser Permanente indicate that a large majority of parents are concerned about their child/children’s eating habits and activity level outside the home, and that they most trust a health care provider to give them information about how to educate children regarding nutrition and exercise. These results suggest that the Amazing Food Detective game will have a good reception among parents, leading to significant national impact.

What are the main barriers to creating your impact?

“Serious” games are still a relatively new phenomenon, and a game that teaches kids about healthy eating and physical activity is not an obvious choice. To counter these barriers, Kaiser Permanente partnered with Scholastic, Inc. to put the information into the hands of trained educators, and created an automatic shut-off after 20 minutes to reinforce the importance of being active. In both cases, the game provides a “jumping off” point for teachers and kids.

How is your initiative financed?

Kaiser Permanente financed the game’s creation, production, distribution, and promotion as part of its commitment to community health.

Provide information on your finances and organization: annual budget, annual revenue, number of staff:

Annual revenue in 2006: $34.4 billion
Number of FTE staff in 2006: 126,347 full time employees, more than 13,000 physicians and 119 dentists

What is the potential demand for your innovation?

There is a growing awareness and concern about the childhood obesity epidemic that is driving the demand for fun, interactive programs that can also deliver effective, clinically-honed messages about healthy eating and physical activity to children. Kaiser Permanente’s competitive analysis confirms that The Incredible Adventures of the Amazing Food Detective is the only game addressing issues affecting childhood obesity that is free, available on the Web, and available in both English/Spanish.

What are the main barriers to financial sustainability?

The main barriers to sustainability are the high costs of reprinting and redistributing collateral materials and the game nationally to all the schools in the country. We are launching aggressive campaigns to direct traffic to the online game and companion materials since these require fewer resources, are infinitely easier to maintain, and will be hosted and updated by Kaiser Permanente for as long as they are effective.

The Story
What is the origin of this innovation? Tell us your story.

Kaiser Permanente is a trailblazer in the national effort to curb childhood obesity. We consider this work a natural outgrowth of our historic commitment to preventive medicine and to improving the health of the communities we serve. Kaiser Permanente’s Healthy Eating/Active Living (HEAL) initiative is transforming communities by supporting broad health education and nutrition programs for kids and their families and partnering with community organizations, schools, employers, public health departments and health care providers. The Amazing Food Detective game is just one of the many innovative ways Kaiser Permanente engages students, parents and educators in the fight against childhood obesity.

The Incredible Adventures of the Amazing Food Detective is based on a character from Kaiser Permanente’s popular Educational Theatre Program (ETP), which has taken health messages directly to schools for 20 years. This program is offered free of charge to eligible schools and community groups and uses live theatre, music, comedy and drama to inspire children, teens and adults to make healthier choices and better decisions about their well-being. In 2006, ETP performances reached students in 1,883 schools; because the Amazing Food Detective is a game that can easily be widely distributed and shared, it will allow us to reach more than twice the number of schools with important information about healthy eating and physical activity.

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers marketing material

As a Communications Director, Jeanne Herrera oversees the development and implementation of national communication services for Kaiser Permanente’s Community Benefit programs; working to build visibility and understanding of Kaiser Permanente’s community health initiatives and grantmaking efforts at the state, local, and national level. Jeanne has spearheaded national and regional communications campaigns through brand development, media relations, and internal and website communications.

How did you hear about this contest and what is your main incentive to participate? (this is confidential)

I was approached by Theresa Kanter from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at the Games for Health Summit, who strongly encouraged Kaiser Permanente to submit The Incredible Adventures of the Amazing Food Detective for this award. Our main incentive to participate in the competition is to raise awareness about the game and to encourage feedback from the field.