By Robyn Kalda, HC Link Consultant

pokemongo
As health promoters, we frequently can be heard disparaging video games. All that screen time! Why don't people go outside? Well, Pokémon Go is getting people outside -- albeit with screens still firmly in hands. What can we do to emphasize the health-promoting aspects of the game? Here are a few ideas.

Encourage inter-generational activity

Kids, parents, and grandparents can all play. Age gives no advantage, so it's a fair game for all. Parents may find kids who play Pokémon Go are more willing to walk around their neighbourhoods, to take on chores such as dog-walking, and to tag along on dull errands such as grocery shopping, as they have to walk several kilometres to hatch Pokémon eggs. Time to encourage family Pokémon-hunting walks after dinner, perhaps?

Encourage exploration

Different Pokémon are found in different kinds of environments, so those found near water are different than those found on busy streets or near forests. Pokémon collectors need to venture beyond their usual haunts if they want to complete their collection. Health promoters can encourage people to use this opportunity to find and appreciate new features of their community. I'd like to see community walking tours that encompass local spots of interest both real and Pokémon-related.

Encourge the social elements

You can't trade Pokémon (yet), but if you want to learn some of the finer points of playing or if you want to know where you can catch a particular kind of Pokémon, you're going to need to go out and walk around, and you're also going to have to talk to other players. It's too soon for proper research, but anecdotal evidence suggests some people with autism or depression have been deriving benefits from walking and from Pokémon-related socializing. (You can go to spots called "gyms" to battle other players' Pokémons as well, which might be considered another social element of the game, but that part is less potentially health-promoting!)

It's easy for health promoters to disparage screens and video games, and sometimes we do so out of habit. I'd suggest we take a closer look at the assets Pokémon Go gives us to work with and see where it takes us.

Besides, it's kind of fun.