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Guest Post: Facebook Isn't Just About Tending Your Crops.

Manny Hernandez isn't just a "friend" on Facebook; he's my friend in "real life," too.  I've always admired his dedication to improving the lives of people with diabetes, and how he uses social media to bridge the gaps between diabetic communities.  Which is why I'm very happy to have him guest posting here today about his Facebook diabetes management game, HealthSeeker.

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Manny Hernandez and his hatOn Facebook, You Can Also Play to Manage Your Diabetes!
Let’s face it: Facebook is a giant. More than 550 million people in the world use it for keeping up with friends and family, to stay informed, and to be entertained.

At the end of 2009, seeing this trend and realizing how many people on Facebook were playing so-called social games (FarmVille is just one example of these), at the Diabetes Hands Foundation (DHF) we thought we should develop a game on Facebook to help with diabetes management.

With the sponsorship of Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals and in collaboration with Boston-based Joslin Diabetes Center, we began to shape  a new game called HealthSeeker. The game saw the light of day in June 2010, when it was launched in English at www.healthSeekerGame.org. The game was launched in Spanish during the month of November (si quieres jugar HealthSeeker en Español visita www.ExplorandoTuSalud.org).

HealthSeeker offers players suggestions to help them improve their lifestyle and nutrition, to better manage diabetes. As a player, you can invite your Facebook friends (actually, it is more fun to play alongside them): they can become sources of inspiration and motivation as you move through levels.

The game tackles two of the risk factors associated with the incidence of type 2 diabetes (though people with type 1 diabetes and all people who simply want to live a healthier life can benefit from it too): the lack of physical activity and the not-so-healthy eating habits we sometimes exhibit.

How does HealthSeeker work?
The game motivates players to take on simple daily challenges, such as switching from wheat to white bread or walking around the block after lunch, in order to help them reach their lifestyle goals.

The lifestyle goals include healthier eating, reaching an optimal weight, improve your diabetes management and reducing the risks of heart problems. HealthSeeker, the diabetes management Facebook game!

The game contains missions and actions that the participants choose. These need to be completed in order to progress. The vast majority of the actions are completed in real life, not in front of the computer. This makes sense considering that we don’t really burn too many calories when we’re not moving anything but our fingers on the keyboard. :)

As players complete actions and return to the game to inform about their progress, they receive awards and points for their achievements and their Facebook friends can give them kudos. Players can also share their accomplishments on their Facebook wall, through Twitter or challenge their friends complete the same missions and actions. This is part of the viral character of the game and is what makes it that much more fun to play alongside your Facebook friends.

As of today, more than 5,000 people are playing HealthSeeker and we look forward to receiving more players. The game is available free of charge, in English at www.HealthSeekerGame.org (en español a través de www.ExplorandoTuSalud.org)

I look forward to seeing you and your Facbeook friends playing soon to take simple steps to get healthier together!

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Manny Hernandez (@askmanny) is a nonprofit executive, social media author, and consultant and a diabetes advocate. He is the President of the Diabetes Hands Foundation (DHF) and the founder of www.TuDiabetes.org (in English) and www.EsTuDiabetes.org (in Spanish).


Comments

Manny, you're looking good. Using games to encourage better control is innovative. I'll be interested to see how it works over the long term.

Very interesting! Should check this game out. Just a question though: don't you mean switching from white to wheat bread, rather than from wheat to white? I haven't had white bread in years! =)

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