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Insurance companies and health care providers use video games to promote healthy living

Insurance companies and health care providers are finding more way to help promote healthy behavior or treat disease through video games, The Star Tribune reports.

The publication spoke with several different sources, including Susannah Fox of Pew Internet Research. Fox studies culture shifts in technology and health care.

"We're at a time of high need and high potential," Fox told the Minneapolis-based newspaper. "Two-thirds of American adults are overweight, we've got a lot of folks with chronic illnesses — many with things such as hypertension and diabetes that could benefit from tracking.

"The challenge for people developing games is to make it as easy as keeping track in your head and as enticing as Angry Birds," Fox said.

Games and gamification can help. UnitedHealth, for example, uses the Baby Blocks game site to help low-income pregnant women and new mothers. As they attend doctor's appointments or follow healthy steps for the first 15 months after the baby is born, they unlock blocks. Each goal comes with rewards such as gift cards or health items. Other goals include targeting obesity with games like Dance, Dance Revolution.

Video games have been used in the past to help treat various ailments and health problems. Stroke victims can improve mobility from Kinect use, while games like Rehabilium Kiritsu-kun can help deveop motor skills.