160875 Three-dimensional online virtual worlds: An opportunity to expand the horizons of health promotion

Monday, November 5, 2007: 11:30 AM

Lucy Annang, PhD , Department of Health Behavior, UAB School of Public Health, Birmingham, AL
Jessica L. Muilenburg, PhD , Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Sheryl M. Strasser, PhD , College of Dentistry, New York University, New York, NY
Since its inception, and most certainly relevant by today's standards, the Internet has served as an efficient means of providing timely information to a multitude of persons worldwide. E-health, using the Internet to communicate about health, is widely used in its various forms from providing clinical health content, to offering consumer health advertising, to its use as an online community for social support groups for persons affected by health conditions. However, what have been less utilized are three-dimensional online communities (categorized as massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs)) as a vehicle for promoting health and behavior change. In these 3D virtual communities, humans navigate the virtual world as avatars (their digital animated selves) and interact with other avatars as they might in real life, all in real time. Avatars are able to do everything as their human counterparts would including walk, talk, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and have sex. Undoubtedly, these communities are created for recreation purposed to divert attention from our everyday realities; but as health educators, professionals and advocates, we should seize this as an opportunity to broaden our reach and scope for health promotion. These communities could potentially serve as modalities for studying risk behavior, presenting health information, or teaching field research. The authors will present examples of these 3D online virtual worlds and discuss these communities as a possible opportunity for health educators, behavioral scientists, and other health professionals to reach persons who may benefit from health-related information or study.

Learning Objectives:
(1) Present examples of 3D online virtual communities. (2) Discuss opportunities for the use of 3D virtual worlds in health promotion.

Keywords: Technology, Health Communications

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.