Let’s Get Real: Virtual Reality in Public Health Communication, Part 1

Cory Jurentkuff
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Since our inception, IQ Solutions, Inc., has leveraged the latest technologies to produce forward-thinking digital health solutions that expand way beyond traditional health communication approaches. These efforts provide innovative strategies for effectively delivering, and maximizing the reach of, impactful health messaging to key audiences.

Ahead of the Digital Curve

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In 2005, we launched the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s “Sara Bellum Blog,” now called the “Drugs & Health Blog,” which was the first teen-focused blog to be produced by a federal agency. In 2010, we launched the first National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements mobile app, a handy tool for tracking the daily intake of dietary supplements. In 2012, we were the first to respond to the Obama Administration’s call to make governmental services more accessible through digital channels. We moved the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s vast array of behavioral health publications and information into XML format, creating an easily accessible content repository.

Our team continues to stay abreast of emerging technologies. We are now identifying ways to integrate virtual reality (VR) technology into relevant public health communication and education efforts.  

What’s VR?

VR is an interactive and immersive experience that transports the user into “another world,” transforming an observation into an experience. This immersion is often used for simulations, videos, and games, and typically occurs via a VR headset, such as Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, and Google Cardboard. You don’t need one of these devices to have a 360-degree video experience, though; your computer or iPad can also provide many of the same benefits through the rotation of a 360 video.

Why Are We So Excited About VR?

By giving key audiences the ability to experience simulations, we have the opportunity to deliver powerful and persuasive messages in immersive and highly interactive ways. We’re thinking about games that take the user “inside” the human body to see things like clogged arteries or lungs damaged by cigarette smoke, simulated workouts that take exercise “life coach” apps one step further, virtual classrooms to teach life-saving procedures such as CPR, and 360-degree video virtual tours of medical facilities.

If you visited the IQ Solutions exhibit booth at any of the annual conferences we attended in the past year (APHA; SOPHE; and the CDC National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media, to name a few), you’ll have noticed that we showcased the potential for VR to be integrated into health communication strategies. In addition, we provided visitors with an introduction to the possibilities of incorporating VR into their solutions by offering complimentary Google Cardboard samples.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article, where we will discuss more specific early applications of VR in the public health arena.

At IQ Solutions, we believe in seizing opportunities to advance public health communication using the latest digital tools to help us break through existing public health challenges. VR is the latest example.

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