Health Disparities Part of Life in New Game by Otterbein Students

Posted Nov 22, 2019

A group at Otterbein University is taking a unique approach to educating the public about health disparities that exist in society — from access to healthcare to financial repercussions of an unplanned health emergency. They were inspired by the Game of Life to create a game as a teaching tool, and their game is receiving recognition.

The game was created by Public Health Education student Mariah Nevels and alumni Chris Saylor and Brooke Stephen with the help of Associate Professor Robert Braun.

Braun wanted to create an interactive way to teach social and physical determinants of health to students, which resulted in the game. “What makes this game successful is how realistic it truly is,” said Braun.

The game has been in the making process for two years and more scenarios are still being created. Players begin in poverty and roll the dice to determine if they have a college degree, high school diploma or if they’re married. They then roll the dice to land on pay days and various scenarios.

On these scenario spaces, players are confronted with a problem and they must determine how they are going to respond from a list with only one correct answer.

For example: The player and thier mother don’t speak English and there is no interpreter available at the doctor’s office. What do you do?

The board also features “Did you know?” bubbles, which are facts that players may not know about healthcare. There are also visuals across the board showing the different obstacles to good health, like a picture of a fast food restaurant.

“This game is very important for students, staff, and professionals to play. Through it, they are able to understand and identify current issues that are present within minority communities,” said Nevels. “Our game allows for each player to experience a life in poverty, while gaining insight on issues that individuals face on a daily basis.”

Nevels presented the game at a national conference in April, where she was personally awarded the John Ruffin Young Investigator Award. After the presentation, she was approached by five universities that wanted her to bring the game to their campuses for their students to play, with one group having 250-300 students.

Further, she was also approached by a CEO who wanted to talk with the group about developing an app for the game.

Braun and his students hope to travel to these universities in the coming school year to not only develop awareness, but also for research purposes to improve the game.