Women in Control: Real and Virtual World Healthcare Intervention

We’ve just wrapped up our NIH-funded experiment, using virtual worlds for health behavior change and patient education.  The Women in Control study, out of Boston University Medical Center, was a year-long research program to test a virtual world versus real world-delivered diabetes healthcare intervention.  The program’s subjects were Boston area Black women, between the ages of 40 and 60, who suffer from out of control type 2 diabetes (T2DM).  The Co-Principal Investigators,  John Wiecha, MD, MPH and Milagros C. Rosal, PhD, designed an intriguing study with a talented team. The eight-week health behavior program was an adaptation of a CDC program called The Power to Prevent. One hundred women in the greater Boston area participated. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of two groups – those who engaged in weekly 90-120 minute sessions in the virtual world of Second Life and those who did so in face-to-face meetings at Boston Medical Center.

Our research questions: How feasible is the use of a virtual world for this purpose? And will subjects in the virtual world program demonstrate similar impact at study-end on health behaviors as subjects in the real world, as measured by patient activity levels; dietary patterns; adherence to diabetes medications; and improvements in metabolic and anthropometric indicators (hemoglobin a1c values, body mass index, and blood pressure)?

We are still churning the data and analyzing our results, so stay tuned for future posts and publications, but we do have this 4-minute video (beautifully compiled by Ariella Furman, Framed in 3D) that gives you a feel for the study and the impact on the subjects.

You can also read past blog posts on the study here and here.

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