Vol. 2 No. 2 (2009): 3D Virtual Worlds for Health and Healthcare
Though Second Life has existed since 2002 and there are even other virtual worlds that predate it, most in the health sector are only recently starting to migrate to such platforms, as the technology is gradually maturating and rapidly becoming more affordable and popular. This special issue of JVWR on the theme of '3D Virtual Worlds for Health and Healthcare' provides a good sampler of how healthcare organizations, groups and individuals are currently using virtual worlds such as Second Life(R) and OpenSim-based worlds for a range of clinical and health-related purposes. Topics covered in this issue include: the use of virtual worlds in healthcare higher education, including in 'virtual patients' game-based learning simulations, with examples from both the UK and the US; the growth and direction of healthcare support groups in virtual worlds; the development of a virtual worlds' coping skills game to prevent post-hospitalization smoking relapse in tobacco dependent cancer patients; and an examination of how the attitude and appearance of an individual's avatar might result in positive changes in her/his real life in relation to obesity, which is one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century. The development and evaluation of health and wellness exhibits at the 'Jefferson Occupational Therapy Education Center' in Second Life is also presented, as well as three 'Think Pieces' reflecting on related methodological and other issues, including a discussion of some of the pitfalls that should be avoided when designing and conducting virtual worlds' health project evaluation studies.