The health benefits of Pokémon Go

Why going to ‘Catch ‘em all’ is good for your health

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From breaking download records to skyrocketing Nintendo’s shares, Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm.  For those – very few – who are unaware, Pokémon Go is a GPS-based augmented reality mobile game based on the popular TV and trading card game series that enraptured kids in the 1990s.  The app imposes pokémon on the user’s camera, giving players the opportunity to catch them in a real-world setting; the more ground the user covers (literally), the more Pokémon can be discovered and caught.  It’s a simple yet engaging process.

But as well as turning a large percentage of the UK’s population – and indeed the world’s – into budding Pokémon trainers, the app is also bringing about a number of health benefits to its users, with medical professionals emphasising that the list of benefits is likely to grow.

 

The potential physical benefits of Pokémon Go were highlighted almost immediately after its release.  The game essentially incentivises and encourages physical activity, a deliberate goal of the app’s creators.  The more you walk, the more Pokémon you can catch, and this mechanism has produced some clear early results.  Statistics from Jawbone, a wearable technology tracker, shows that its average Pokémon Go user’s daily step account jumped from 6,000 to 11,000 steps in the space of a few days.  Some users have also reported that the app is more motivating than traditional activity trackers, therefore leading to continued use and, subsequently, continued activity.

 

But the benefits go much deeper than increasing physical activity.  In addition to exercise, John Hanke, CEO of Pokémon Go developer Niantic, stated another goal of the game was for it to act as an “icebreaker”, a mechanism to get people to interact in a way they would not have or would have avoided before.  And this seems to have worked, especially for individuals with social anxiety and depression; one user tweeted that the game gave her “purpose and reason to go outside at last”, and another wrote that the app encouraged physical activity “more than anything else has so far”.

 

The app is also drawing praise from users affected by Autism and their parents.  Similar to the above, reports and user testimonials of the app’s positive effects on the behaviour of people with Autism – particularly children – are becoming more and more frequent.  Young people who would usually stay clear of large crowds and social interaction are now voluntarily being brought into the middle of it.  Individuals who would otherwise not break from their set routine are now doing so, a change that parents have been quick to praise.  The app has further being targeted as an educational tool, with the game used as the basis for building learning experiences for children with Autism.

 

The app is still somewhat it in its infancy, and health professionals have stated that these health benefits may just be the start, with more likely to come.  If this is the case, may we soon start seeing the app and its technology not just as a game but also a genuine health tool?  Research has already shown the improvements the game can make to certain cognitive functions, so will we see it prescribed as a form of conditioning for these areas?  Can the app be integrated into depression or anxiety treatments? As the technology behind the game undoubtedly develops, will we see the physical tracking aspects of the app become more extensive and subsequently more useful for health professionals? The answer to these questions is ultimately unknown, but the potential is very real.

 

Pokémon Go’s rapid ascension to king of the mobile gaming world can be viewed as a passing fad, one that has ultimately made its creators a lot of money.  But as the more and more people share their stories, it might just be worth putting aside any cynicism we may have and instead celebrate the positive effect this game is having on so many people from so many areas of the globe.

 

[Photo credit: Credit: Matthew Corley / Shutterstock.com]

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The health benefits of Pokémon Go

The Future of Mental Health in England – Part One: Why does mental health matter?

Both the issue of mental health and mental healthcare services have long been an unfairly-marginalised concern, both within the NHS and in the wider debate on healthcare in the UK.  A consistent lack of attention and underinvestment across the years has meant that mental healthcare services across England has meant a significant gap – a chasm – now exists between the standards of mental healthcare services and physical healthcare services.  The 2012 Health and Social Care Act pledged that there would be ‘parity of esteem’ between physical and mental healthcare services, which placed mental health and the services that surround it on an equal footing with physical health.  This was a progressive step forward, as it not only enshrined theoretical and practical equality of investment but it also drew attention to the existing disparity in both the quality and range of health services available to those suffering from a mental health problem.

However, bold statements and attention mean very little when real change is not successfully implemented and tangible results are not achieved or progressed toward.  In this next series of blog posts, Will Stent will be examining what challenges have currently facing mental healthcare services, what improvements or changes have been made, and what the future of mental healthcare looks like.


Why does mental health matter?

Before delving into the challenges and complex realities of our current mental healthcare services, we have to answer one (well, two really) question(s) clearly – why does mental health matter? And why should we give mental health the same attention as physical health?

The answer or answers to the first question are simple yet still not emphasised enough.  Good or positive mental health is fundamental in creating positive outcomes elsewhere in an individual’s life.  Relationships, education, employment, social situations, family situations, periods or occasions of physical or emotional hardship – all are made more successful, more beneficial, easier, and more more rewarding because of good mental health.  So when an individual’s mental health is not good, or is suffering or struggling, every other aspect of that individual’s life suffers.

On a more practical level, mental health matters because issues and problems surrounding it are growing across society. Mental health problems already account for a significant proportion – 26% – of NHS activity and our healthcare focus.  This is likely to continue to grow as the number of people affected by mental health problems continues to increase.  Currently it is estimated that one-in-four adults will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime.  One-in-ten children currently do suffer from a mental problem.  One-in-four older people living in the community, and 40 per cent of older people living in nursing or community homes, suffer from mental health problems such as serious anxiety or dementia.

The Future of Mental Health in England – Part One: Why does mental health matter?

Monsanto et. Al: Outlining the Big Six of Global Agricultural Biotech

Discussions of what occurs in the field of agricultural technologies and the trickle-down effect this has on farmers and consumers alike tends to focus exclusively on Monsanto, especially in the U.S. This is understandable. Monsanto is consistently described and regarded as the leader of the ‘Big Six’, precisely because of its size and, more notably, because of the more outwardly controversial avenues of development and public integration it adopts. However to ignore or downplay the presence of these other companies would be a mistake. So let’s have a look.

BASF

  • Established as ‘Badische Anilin und Soda-Fabrik’ in 1865, BASF is centred in Ludwigshaten, Germany.
  • Core products include: plastics; chemicals; performance products – such as raw materials for detergents and textile chemicals; and, most notably here, agricultural chemicals including herbicides and insecticides, and the development of new biotechnologies (in standing cooperation with Monsanto).
  • Employees 95,000 total across five continents (2013).

BAYER AG

  • Holding company for pharmaceutical, biotech and agrochemical industries.
  • Details itself as focussing on the ‘core competences in the life sciences field’, and as an ‘innovator in pharmaceutical and medical products’.
  • Employees 119,000, with logged sales of $42.2 billion (2014).

DUPONT

  • Third-largest chemical production company after Dow and ExxonMobil.
  • Operates through five divisions: automatic finishings and coatings; agrochemicals and GMOs; electronics, including flurochemicals; polymers and resins for packagings; and safety and security materials, such as kevlar.
  • Employees 60,000 across 20 countries.

DOW Chemical Company

  • The United States’ largest chemical company, and one of the largest in the world alongside ExxonMobil.
  • Products include: ‘performance plastics’, such as those designed specifically for engineering; commodity chemicals; and agrochemicals.
  • Its Agricultural Sciences division specialises in providing crop protection, urban pest management, and crop and seed biotechnological development.
  • Employs 52,000 (2015).

SYGENTA

  • Based in Basel, Switzerland, its focus lies on global agribusiness, agrochemical and biotech industries; its North American subsidiary, Sygenta seeds, opened in 2009.
  • It is a primary producer of herbicides and insecticides, and of field crop and vegetable seeds.

MONSANTO

  • The most controversial and arguably the most public agribusiness of the ‘Big Six’.
  • A global leader in the production and development of a range of biotechnologies, notably herbicides and genetically-modified seeds that are resistant to these treatments.
  • As well as its flagship product RoundUp, other notable products produced under the Monsanto brand include DDT, Agent Orange, Aspartame, and BST or bonne somatotropin, sold under the name Posilac, a growth hormone given to diary cows to stimulate increased production.
  • Employs 22,000 around the world, with approximately 10,000 of these in the United States.

So, why the fact sheet? What is the significance of these details?

Size. Even by this brief assessment of each member of the so-called Big Six of agricultural biotechnology, it is clear that when combined together these companies have an incredible position of power. Together these six corporations both own and control 75 percent of the world’s pesticides market [2]. Monsanto, Dupont and Sygenta control 47 percent of the worldwide propriety seed market. In the ever-developing world of GMOs, the leading controversy-generator and patriarch of these transnational corporations Monsanto and its genetically-modified seeds account for 87 percent of the world’s total GM crop industry.

The millions of dollars spent lobbying, the lawsuits brought against these corporations, and the millions of people that have both testified for and protested against the work and actions of these six global powerhouses are just two indicators of the importance of these issues of agriculture. The legitimacy of this monopolisation of agricultural technology is a topic this blog will seek to discuss and address in detail. It will also look at what the positions and developments of these corporations, and particularly those of Monsanto, mean practically for farmers and consumers both now and in the future.

Monsanto et. Al: Outlining the Big Six of Global Agricultural Biotech