A new online game aims to combat growing rates of childhood obesity by teaching kids about the importance of nutrition and exercise.
The Amazing Food Detective, designed by U.S. health care provider Kaiser Permanente, offers "case files" of children with poor eating or exercise habits, and asks players to come up with solutions to help them lead healthier lives. In one case, ten-year-old Cole eats too much junk food; the player must help Cole pick healthier food alternatives from the school cafeteria lunch line. The cases are presented by a distinctly Carmen Sandiego-esque character, and after successfully closing a case, the player can try his hand at mini-games such as Whack-A-Snack, Dodge the Junk and Hyper Typer.
"The goal is to do everything we can to fight childhood obesity," said Brian Harper of Kaiser Permanente. "We want to motivate and inspire people to live healthier lives." Along with its gameplay, The Amazing Food Detective also features pop-up windows with additional information on healthy eating habits. The game is aimed at kids aged 9-11, and features an automated shutdown to teach kids to avoid becoming overly sedentary: After 20 minutes of play, the game becomes inaccessible for 60 minutes, telling kids to go outside and get some exercise instead.
Childhood obesity has become a high-profile issue in the U.S., where many people view it as an epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the incidence of obese children rose from 7 percent in 1980 to 18.8 percent in 2004. Kaiser Permanente plans to launch The Amazing Food Detective in 5,000 schools across the country; the game is also available for free online play at their website.