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Life-and-Death Impact of Health Literacy to be Explored at Serious Play Conference

Health and health literacy are life and death, not a game. Yet Dr. John Pollock, Duquesne University professor of biological sciences and an expert in developing multimedia learning tools for health and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) topics, has been invited to present at the Serious Play Conference in Pittsburgh.

Educators and trainers across fields in health care, government and the military will gather from Tuesday, July 21, through Thursday, July 23, to discuss how and why using game tactics—from game theory to video games themselves—can be relevant to teach adults and children environmental concerns, prevent HIV/AIDS, survive tsunamis, build robots and more.

Pollock will share his research about the elements of literacy in visual learning, reading as cross-training for the brain, and storytelling as the way the brain holds together its learning and makes information relevant.

After more than a decade of producing science and health information for children and parents, Pollock is more concerned than ever about individual and national implications of low literacy skills among adults. About half of all American adults have weak reading skills, according to national surveys. The impact shows up in individual quality of life and nationwide health care costs.

“Because many people can’t understand directions for health care, their re-visits add to the burden of health care costs,” Pollock said, adding that the cost of low health literacy is as much as $238 billion in the U.S. “If that money could be captured, it would be enough to insure 47 million people.

“These problems spill over to kids,” he said. “If kids don’t have strong reading skills and we’re also not engaging them in STEM subjects, then where are we going to get the workforce needed for our technological society?”

This critical situation makes engaging readers in eBooks, videogames and other transmedia all the more important for Pollock. His discussion at the Serious Play Conference will focus on developing digital multimedia resources that are conceptually linked. By developing them from the perspective of fun and engaging stories that come from the world of kids, the science of everyday events creates rich learning potential.

“Kids, pre-K through fifth or sixth grade, are much more capable of learning than many adults often give them credit,” Pollock said. “They can learn pretty sophisticated science, which they can share with their parents and that they’ll also remember when they’re adults, too.”

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.