Updated: Aug 18, 2022
It’s incredible what we will do if we have the right story. Imagine playing a game where you are tasked with capturing unique monster creatures and battling them against your friends and family in AR? And what if that game not only provided you with hours of entertainment, but also improved your health? That’s what happened with Pokemon GO. The worldwide phenomenon had people of all backgrounds immersed in the story of Pokemon, physically searching their surroundings for new digital characters to call their own, while inadvertently increasing their physical activity. And while health media isn’t new, interactive technologies and Hollywood style storytelling has made it easier than ever for us to experience entertainment that we enjoy– with the added benefit of better health.
Health entertainment is entertainment that measurably improves health outcomes. It’s great storytelling that captivates your attention, transporting you into the world of the story, while also having the benefits of better health. Thanks to interactive technologies such as AR/VR/XR, we can experience stories like never before. Now we can leverage our love of stories into something that improves our lives at the physiological level.
You might be thinking, well that sounds a lot like an educational movie, like that video I watched on the Miracle of Life in health class. Yes, health media is not new but there are different degrees of health media and its efficacy on impacting our lives. Health entertainment is the highest level of health media: entertainment that changes behavior. Here are the 4 degrees of health entertainment
Awareness: Entertainment that raises awareness about a health topic. Most educational programs can be found in this category (also known as edu-tainment). Entertainment that is designed to increase awareness is what we can commonly find in classrooms, serious games or content from health providers.
Attitude: Entertainment that changes the way the audience feels about a health topic. We usually see this in character driven narratives, especially in TV and films set in the medical space. Shows like Grey’s Anatomy have been studied for their impact on influencing attitudes on health issues such as breast cancer screenings.
Action: You are motivated to partake in some action related to the health topic, such as calling a hotline number after the screen fades to black. The entertainment — the story– is so compelling, you’re motivated to do something in response. We see this in social impact entertainment, where many entertainment projects have an accompanying social action campaign. When the screen fades to black or a button pops up, the audience is asked to get involved, donate or more. Most importantly, these are one-time actions. The action may catalyze a new passion for an audience member, but the entertainment isn’t designed to support the audience past the consumption of the media.
Behavior Change: Entertainment that induces repeated action, compounding in measurable behavior change that can impact the physiology of the audience. The entertainment activates and improves the audience’s self efficacy. Pokemon GO is the best example of this, where an AR mobile game was found to increase physical activity for players across demographics.
The most successful health entertainment projects aren’t even recognizable as a health intervention or health product. Instead, the health outcomes are a by-product or side-effect of the entertainment. Because the entertainment is so compelling, audiences aren’t even aware that they may be improving their health by playing a game or watching a TV show.
Health Entertainment commonly targets exercise and physical activities, but thanks to interactive technologies we’re seeing the therapeutic benefits of health entertainment for chronic conditions. Akili Interactive has the first FDA approved video game for ADHD treatment, while Lumiopia has been approved to treat amblyopia. More use cases are being studied everyday, but I see the real potential for health entertainment is not another gamified digital therapeutic, but an easily accessible, well-loved entertainment experience, like Sesame Street or Star Trek; a fan worthy experience that uses interactive technology to captivate audiences and improve their health.
Moving beyond raising awareness or changing attitudes, our favorite stories and characters will be the catalyst for sustained behavior change. With health entertainment, we can finally leverage our love of stories to improve our health and scale healing.
Health entertainment is here and it’s only going to get better. How are you going to use entertainment to improve health outcomes?
Ari Mostov is health entertainment producer and health innovation strategist. She uses her entertainment expertise to improve health outcomes and works with health companies to create a new narrative for health. Learn more www.wellplay.world