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Public Health Games
Jamais Cascio, 17 Dec 05

publichealthgame.jpgThe University of Illinois-Chicago Center for the Advancement of Distance Education (CADE) is a program at the university's Department of Public Health, attempting to come up with innovative ways to provide healthcare education to providers, first responders and other officials. They use online training, multimedia, websites and the like, but also employ a growing number of simulations and games. Some of these may be found at PublicHealthGames.com.

The two simulations at the website now available for inspection -- "Bioterrorisk" and "Envirorisk" -- are fairly simple interactive exercises, barely "games" in the conventional sense. But CADE is now working with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on a larger-scale simulation of healthcare responses to disaster. The first version will focus on bioterror, but future modules will include pandemics and nuclear accidents. Wired has a short piece on the simulation, and screenshots can be found at PublicHealthGames. PublicHealthGames is a classic example of the "Serious Games" model, and the CADE team presented at last month's Serious Games Summit (unfortunately, the presentation is not currently available on the website).

This public health sim is a direct result of the poor response to hurricane Katrina, which demonstrated that the emergency responders were not adequately trained to handle a massive system disruption. The goal of the disaster sim (which does not yet have an official name) is to educate healthcare providers about how conditions change in disaster-scale events by placing them in simulated circumstances akin to what they'd experience in reality. Simulations and drills are common tools for emergency preparedness, but the expense and time demands of traditional live-actor simulations limit their availability.

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