Wanna change? Don't read up on it - PLAY it and Do it!

Wanna change? Don't read up on it - PLAY it and Do it!

United States
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

Making the info and skills to maintain healthy habits accessible and relevant to the underserved, we engage culture and motivate so messages are heard.

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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?

Physical 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?

Making the info and skills to maintain healthy habits accessible and relevant to the underserved, we engage culture and motivate so messages are heard.

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

Many people engage in behaviors that are not good for them, like putting themselves at risk for contracting sexually transmitted diseases like HIV. The primary strategy in most programs for helping people change their behavior is to tell them what to do and overwhelm them with information. But information alone does not change behavior. Our programs are unique because they are interactive, fun, and engage people in activities that motivate action, provide information, and build the skills necessary to sustain healthy behaviors. The programs are not just words to be read and deciphered on an information heavy webpage. Our programs do not require high levels of literacy and reading - they convey information to people in a way they understand. We communicate with people the way that they communicate with each other. We are also unique because we have evaluated our programs with the underserved and have evidence that when people complete our program, they change their behavior.

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

Most people think bad things happen to other people, not themselves. However, the reality is that if you engage in risky behaviors, you are at risk. For example, though they are the healthiest among us, almost half of all new HIV infections are among those under 25 years of age. Most people also don’t want to be told what to do and know when their own behaviors are not healthy. Changing habits and sustaining motivation is one of the most difficult barriers to overcome in changing behavior.

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

We have developed our innovations to be delivered via the web or from DVD. They are ehealth applications that need to be accessible to underserved populations and we have found that even homeless youth have access to the internet or computers and have been able to access our program. Over the internet, the programs require only Macromedia Flash. On DVD, the program is contained in two files (the start-up executable and a folder containing all of the assets and files needed to run the program) that can easily be dragged and dropped onto the hard drive of a local machine. The program then only requires a Pentium III processor, Windows 2000, Quicktime and Windows Media Player. Our programs aim to help individuals reduce their sexual risk behaviors. Once such a person is identified, they could independently access and interact with our program to gain the motivation for action, needed information, and the behavioral skills to reduce their risk.

How do you plan to scale your innovation?

We have collected evaluation data for the programs that support its effectiveness in changing behavior. This data provides credibility and supports its dissemination. We plan to provide the community partners who were involved in the evaluation studies with a free copy of the program. Our partners are enthusiastic about the program and their endorsement will create further demand for the program from similar organizations. We are publishing the evaluation studies in peer reviewed journals to establish the program as an evidence-based program. This will facilitate the endorsement of the federal government. Current federal guidelines earmarks funding to health departments and community based organizations for the use of evidence-based programs. This will also create a demand and dissemination stream for the program. Finally, we are applying to potential funders for funds to mass produce the DVDs so they are available to state health departments and agencies.

Provide one sentence describing your impact.

The program will reduce the spread and destructive impact of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV, the most important epidemic of our time.

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

Our evaluation studies have been conducted in Los Angeles with homeless/runaway youth, youth involved in the juvenile justice system and adults living with HIV. Consequently, our programs have impacted some of the most underserved populations in our society. For each of these populations, we have found that individuals reduce their risk behaviors, whereby decreasing their risk for becoming the next statistic of HIV or other sexually transmitted infection. For example, the delinquent adolescents that completed the program were less likely to engage in sexual activity and reported fewer sexual partners. The adults living with HIV that engaged in our program reduced the risk of transmitting the virus to someone else by decreasing the number of HIV negative sexual partners and decreasing the number of times they had unprotected sex. Therefore, our innovation has had a positive impact on those who have experienced it.

How many people have you served directly?

Our evaluation study with delinquent adolescents included 133 adolescents. The program is currently being used by over 200 adolescents in continuation schools. Our evaluation study with adults living with HIV included 792 persons from 6 medical clinics across Los Angeles. Therefore, over 1000 individuals have been served directly by our ehealth programs.

How many people have you served indirectly?

In each of the settings we have implemented our programs, whether it was schools, medical clinics or community based organizations, we have seen an increase in the motivation and commitment of staff to address the issues of risk behavior. Our partners seem to have been revitalized with renewed optimism about the ability of people to successfully change their behavior. Consequently, our programs have indirectly served the underserved through the work of the staff that have been involved in our programs. Our innovation has also provided evidence and support for the successful use of ehealth applications in health behavior change, impacting those who develop programs. They recognize the potential for technology as a strategy for behavior change and have moved in this direction also.

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

While not realized yet, another measure to reflect the impact of our innovations would be the reduction in the rates of sexually transmitted diseases. Another measure would be the acceptance and proliferation of ehealth applications and an increase in funding to support the development of serious games and ehealth applications.

What are the main barriers to creating your impact?

The main barrier was building a multidisciplinary team that could build a program that would result in behavior change. This team required psychologists, community psychologist, medical doctors, youth, those involved in the systems of care (teachers, probation officers, nurses, etc.) and programmers willing to take the time to understand what was needed and work collaboratively with a team. In addition, engaging providers who were not directly involved in the development was a challenge.

How is your initiative financed?

The development and dissemination of the programs has been financed by the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Drug Abuse, the state of California, the UCLA AIDS Institute, and the W.T. Grant Foundation.

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

The development and evaluation of the programs have operated on an annual budget of 1.2 million. The development and evaluation of these programs involved 12 full-time employees and 4 part-time employees. There were also a number of community collaborators who supported and facilitated the implementation of the programs.

What is the potential demand for your innovation?

The potential demand for our innovation is high. The prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, particularly HIV, is high on the national and local agendas. Those working with people at risk are demanding new tools and strategies to help them do their work - tools that are engaging and relevant to their clients, which is a primary strength of our programs. We have received numerous requests for our programs and expect the demand to increase as the evidence for our programs disseminates

What are the main barriers to financial sustainability?

The barrier to financial stability is establishing the infrastructure to support ongoing development of the programs in order to continue to drive demand. Over time, the innovations will need to be tweaked to maintain their relevance. This will require support for staff that parallels the team that developed the program. This can be challenging since staff would not initially be fully employed by this endeavor. We currently have a team dedicated to this cause who provides needed support

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

I am a psychologist committed to improving the well-being of the underserved. In particular, I would like to contribute to eradicating HIV. Effective prevention programs have been developed to address this epidemic, but they have had very limited dissemination or impact. This, in large part, is due to the fact that the programs are difficult and resource intensive to implement, require highly trained staff, and are not easily accessible by the underserved. Consequently, I’ve been very interested in developing programs that can be easily disseminated, don’t require intensive training, and can be easily accessed by those that need it. I have also examined how people communicate with each other and how they get information in today’s society. Finally, in my therapeutic work with underserved adolescents, I observed that although they had various struggles to contend with in their lives, such as poverty and violence, most had video games and frequently used technology. Therefore, it was clear that technology was an underutilized strategy that had the potential to make a huge impact in bringing prevention to the underserved. I have spent the last 7 years using my experience and training to develop accessible and relevant programs that help people change behavior and improve their well being.

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

I am counseling psychologist who conducts behavioral research at UCLA. My specialization is in the areas of adolescents, intervention, and prevention. I have conducted with underserved adults, couples, and families infected/affected by HIV. I am particularly interested in developing cost-effective programs that are easily translatable to community settings, that are cutting-edge and likely to successfully engage these populations to increase mental health functioning and well-being.

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

I heard about this contest through a friend and an RWJ email. My friend knew of the work I was doing and thought this would be a good fit. My main incentive to participate is the potential for increasing visibility to my work and the work of ehealth applications. I, as a psychologist, don’t develop programs so that they can sit on a shelf somewhere. I want my work to have utility and contribute to humankind. I think my work supports the effectiveness of ehealth programs and the need for investment in the development of more ehealth applications. These programs are not only fun, they can actually help people in a cost-effective way. I think my work supports this assertion and their success may open the doors for continued investment in this area.