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Seeking Game-Changing Solutions to Childhood Obesity

By Aneesh Chopra – Federal Chief Technology Officer

Yesterday the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture hosted a workshop to gather insight from leading experts in the fields of gaming and technology to inform the development of a nutrition game-design challenge. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services is preparing to launch the Innovations for Healthy Kids Challenge, a call to American entrepreneurs, software developers, and students to use a recently released USDA nutrition data set to create innovative, fun, and engaging web-based learning applications that motivate kids, especially “tweens” (aged 9-12) and their parents, to eat more healthfully and be more physically active.

Thirty-one experts joined the meeting—some via teleconference—to offer their knowledge and experience related to game design, entertainment technology, social media, and skill contests, in reaction to a previously circulated concept paper outlining key components of the contest.

Our intention here is to invite you to join this discussion. Here are some of the major design-related themes, that emerged from the Workshop, around which we’d like to get input from you:

  • Goal: We discussed the potential for games – powered by nutrition data – to change behavior in our target segment (“tweens” between the ages of 9-12 and their parents). Design questions focused on whether the contest should result in a finished, high-impact game or one that continually evolves over time (“gaming as a service”). How would you recommend we address this question in the design of our contest?


  • Incentives: We discussed government limitations on the size of the prize ($3,000 – a purse we’ve awarded in public service announcement contests as well). Design questions focused on the degree to which other stakeholders might supplement the prize with privately raised funds; develop new markets for educational games, including schools, parents, and after-school programs; and recognize finalists at the White House or other venues. What incentives would you recommend we deploy to maximize high quality participation?


  • Final Product: We acknowledged a spectrum of potential final products– including “back of the envelope” ideas, game story boards, working prototypes, and market-ready “final” products. In addition, we discussed the possibility of multiple phases to capture the breadth and quality of potential submissions (perhaps an early round seeking top ideas/story boards to be developed into games in round two). How should we design the competition in a manner that inspires and empowers both professionals willing to volunteer hours to the competition and students willing to build a game that doubles as a semester class assignment? How do we address the myriad game product categories – from casual games to fully developed titles?


  • Your Commitment: A great deal of the conversation focused on how individuals might complement the official competition with commitments they could offer from their respective positions – whether it would be incorporating nutrition data in already-developed games, faculty assigning class time towards building nutrition games, or organizations spreading the word about the contest. How might you be willing to help? Please post any commitments your firm, foundation, school or other organization might be willing to offer as we build a national movement to address childhood obesity.


Thank you in advance for your ideas on these important questions.

Aneesh Chopra is Chief Technology Officer of the United States

New Federal Conservation Council Boosts America’s Outdoors

Hunters, fishers and all wildlife enthusiasts – there’s a new USDA and Department of Interior council that is going to make the great outdoors even greater for you.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar have announced the new Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council that will advise government on wildlife conservation and hunting issues. The Secretaries were joined by Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana for the announcement at the Theodore Roosevelt Island national memorial in Washington, D.C.

Sparked by the spirit Theodore Roosevelt, the new council focuses on the importance of hunting and fishing in American life and their connections to healthy lands and native species.

The new council replaces the Sporting Conservation Council, bringing in members from the hunting and shooting sports industries and representatives of the nation’s major hunting organizations.

The council will provide a forum for sports men and women to advise the Federal government on wildlife and habitat conservation. New opportunities partnerships will abound as the council brings together the public, the sporting conservation community, the shooting and hunting sports industry, wildlife conservation organizations, the States, Native American tribes, and the Federal government.

USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency and Forest Service and the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management will provide support and guidance to the council.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (left), Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (center) and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (left), Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (center) and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, share a light moment before the announcement of the creation of the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council a new cooperative Federal advisory council on wildlife conservation and hunting Issues. The Advisory Council will provide advice to the government on wildlife conservation and hunting issues and promote efforts to preserve America’s hunting heritage for future generations. The event took place in Washington, D.C. on February 4, 2010.

From left: Tom Strickland, Chief of Staff and Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Department of Interior, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer sign the proclamation creating the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council a new Federal advisory council on wildlife conservation and hunting Issues on Theodore Roosevelt Island National Monument in the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., on February 4, 2010.
From left: Tom Strickland, Chief of Staff and Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Department of Interior, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer sign the proclamation creating the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council a new Federal advisory council on wildlife conservation and hunting Issues on Theodore Roosevelt Island National Monument in the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., on February 4, 2010.


Submitted by Brad Fisher, Public Affairs Specialist, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Washington,

Langston, Oklahoma’s Clinic gets a Dental Program, More Services with Recovery Act Funding

Langston, Oklahoma is a lot like many rural towns across the country; it has an aging population and a growing need for health care facilities.  Now, thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Langston will be able to renovate and expand its local health clinic. Read more »