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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 61  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 314  

The utility of gamification in public health

Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, London, England

Date of Web Publication6-Dec-2017

Correspondence Address:
Mr. Connor S Qiu
Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, SW7 2AZ, London
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijph.IJPH_393_16

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How to cite this article:
Qiu CS. The utility of gamification in public health. Indian J Public Health 2017;61:314

How to cite this URL:
Qiu CS. The utility of gamification in public health. Indian J Public Health [serial online] 2017 [cited 2022 Aug 20];61:314. Available from:


The definition of public health is one that is constantly evolving, but its fundamental aim of using both scientific rigor and a creative disposition to produce widespread improvement in the health of human populations has never changed.[1] In this modern day, the dynamic and multidisciplinary nature of public health creates opportunities to consider the roles of new and disruptive trends that are emerging from societal progress. A trend worth highlighting is that of gamification.

Gamification is the process of extracting the salient aspects of games, which create fun through imaginative play, and applying them to situations historically devoid of them. It can be defined as using elements of game mechanics for nonconventional purposes.[2] A prime example would be to consider the utility and benefits of game-like elements, such as ranking and scoring systems, goal setting and social reinforcement in the initial design, and, subsequently, the making of public health initiatives and policy.[3] Introducing fun, engagement, and awareness unique to games may be an effective way to achieve public health objectives.

Public health, along with many other fields, is susceptible to disruption through the advent and maturation of digital technology. This in part is due to the ubiquitous and now pervasive nature of computing. There is a developing evidence base which supports the positive role that gamification plays in the modification and encouragement of beneficial health behaviors.[4] Particularly encouraging is the way in which gamification and public health broadly align in their far-reaching scope for impact and their core metrics for determining efficacy.[5] This creates exciting opportunities for a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship.

Part of developing successful solutions to challenging problems concerning public health and, by extension, global health may involve employing gamification in more imaginative and unconventional ways. Gamification is perhaps best known in the health and well-being field through the implementation of its principles in smartphone applications in the digital medium.[4] This applies particularly in the developed world, where an influx of devices that enable the tracking of various health-related parameters has created a new consumer market predisposed to novel ways of being influenced.

Even though gamification in the digital format has become increasingly notorious in recent times, analog gamification could have underexplored potential. Successful digital gamification platforms for organizations that illustrate applicability to different social microcosms are abundant. Examples include eMee in India and Badgeville in the USA. Using gamification in inventive and resourceful ways, such as creating suitably crafted low-tech solutions to employ the same guiding principles, for example pen and paper checkboxes combined with the power of harmonized social interaction can lead to equally desirable outcomes.[3]

Both public health and gamification crucially concern the shaping of motivations. There is no secret that the effectiveness of public health campaigns depends on levels of engagement. A more effectively motivated individual, whether it is the recipient of the effects of public health policy or indeed the policymakers and trendsetters that drive public health, generates better results. Public health has all to gain from the unique promises offered by gamification.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Martin-Moreno JM, Harris M, Jakubowski E, Kluge H. Defining and assessing public health functions: A Global analysis. Annu Rev Public Health 2016;37:335-55.  Back to cited text no. 1
Deterding S, Dixon D, Khaled R, Nacke L, editors. From game design elements to gamefulness: Defining gamification. Proceedings of the 15th International Academic MindTrek Conference: Envisioning Future Media Environments. Tampere, Finland, New York: ACM; 2011.  Back to cited text no. 2
Cugelman B. Gamification: What it is and why it matters to digital health behavior change developers. JMIR Serious Games 2013;1:e3.  Back to cited text no. 3
Johnson D, Deterding S, Kuhn KA, Staneva A, Stoyanov S, Hides L. Gamification for health and wellbeing: A Systematic review of the literature. Internet Internet Interv 2016;6:89-106.  Back to cited text no. 4
Alahäivälä T, Oinas-Kukkonen H. Understanding persuasion contexts in health gamification: A systematic analysis of gamified health behavior change support systems literature. Int J Med Inform 2016;96:62-70.  Back to cited text no. 5

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1 Gamification Reloaded
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[Pubmed] | [DOI]


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