Skip Navigation U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Agency for Healthcare Research Quality
Archive print banner

Patient Education

This information is for reference purposes only. It was current when produced and may now be outdated. Archive material is no longer maintained, and some links may not work. Persons with disabilities having difficulty accessing this information should contact us at: Let us know the nature of the problem, the Web address of what you want, and your contact information.

Please go to for current information.

Interactive video games can motivate health behavior change in children and adolescents

In randomized clinical trials, children and adolescents improved their self care and significantly reduced their use of emergency clinical services after playing health education and disease management video games. Debra A. Lieberman, Ed.M., Ph.D., of the University of California, Santa Barbara, examined the effectiveness of three such games: "Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus," for asthma self-management; "Packy & Marlon," for diabetes self-management; and "Rex Ronan," for smoking prevention. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provided support for initial development of the smoking prevention game (contract 213-92-0051).

In these interactive video games, which were developed by Click Health, Inc., children and adolescents assume the role of a main character who also has their chronic condition or is battling the effects of smoking and nicotine addiction. According to Dr. Lieberman, children who took these games home and used them for 1 week (smoking prevention) to 6 months (diabetes self care) increased their resolve not to smoke, markedly improved their ability to manage their asthma or diabetes, and reduced by as much as 77 percent, on average, their urgent or emergency care visits related to their illness.

The "Rex Ronan" video game graphically portrays the physiological effects of smoking. It is intended to strengthen preadolescents' (ages 10 to 12) antismoking attitudes and intentions not to begin smoking. Although many youngsters in this age group already hold these attitudes, their resolve notoriously weakens when they reach 13 or 14, the age at which many people begin smoking.

In the video game, Dr. Rex Ronan shrinks to near microscopic size and enters the body of a smoker who has a multitude of tobacco-related illnesses. Using his powerful laser scalpel, he attempts to destroy the tar, plaque, precancerous cells, and other debris and deposits that are consequences of tobacco use. The player maneuvers Dr. Ronan through the body and controls the laser scalpel. After playing the game at home for 1 week, 10- and 11-year-old children participating in a 1997 study in Georgia gained a better understanding of the physiological effects of smoking and strengthened their resolve not to smoke.

For more information, see "Management of chronic pediatric diseases with interactive health games: Theory and research findings," by Dr. Lieberman, in the January 2001 Journal of Ambulatory Care Management 24, pp. 26-38.

Return to Contents
Proceed to Next Article

The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


AHRQ Advancing Excellence in Health Care