Tuesday, May 18, 2010

AHA response to Good Morning America (GMA) segment

Here we go. The official press machine has gone into overdrive after yesterday morning's Good Morning America (GMA) news piece. In response to the facts revealed and a way to further explain the releationship between the American Heart Association (AHA) and Nintendo, the AHA released the following statement:

Please take the following poll to weigh in on your thoughts.  The results of this poll will be featured at the upcoming Games for Health Conference in Boston, MA - May 25-27, 2010.

On a side note, I would love to be a part of the Innovation Summit mentioned on their website so that I can bring a more rounded perspective about exergaming and active gaming and their health benefits.

News Releases
American Heart Association response to Good Morning America segment
Contact: Elizabeth Moreno

Today, Monday, May 17, 2010, ABC’s Good Morning America aired a story on the American Heart Association’s just announced strategic relationship with Nintendo of America (NOA).

We would like to provide some additional information to paint a more complete picture of this important announcement.

The AHA/NOA relationship is focused only on the “active gaming” products of Nintendo. In addition, the American Heart Association and Nintendo will also jointly launch an online information center at www.activeplaynow.com, where visitors can read about the benefits of physically active play, conduct personal assessments and learn more about living a more physically active lifestyle.

The GMA story implied that the AHA is endorsing all Nintendo Wii games, including those that are sedentary. This is not accurate. The AHA and Nintendo logos, along with the statement defining our relationship, “Working together to promote physically active play as part of a healthy lifestyle”, will be on boxes for the Wii Fit™ Plus and Wii Sports Resort™ software and for the Wii™ system that plays them beginning this summer.

With Nintendo, AHA reaches an important new audience, those currently playing video games, with a message that encourages people to choose the more physically active versions of these games. This is important because so many Americans are completely sedentary. We need to meet people “where they are”.

GMA also compared the benefits of ‘real’ exercise to active video gaming exercise, citing a study that “even the most active gaming doesn’t compare to real life”. We agree that participating in an actual sport is usually more vigorous than active gaming. But active gaming compares very well with sitting on the couch. The fundamental issue here is that many Americans are not getting any physical activity -- 70% of Americans do not meet the levels of physical activity recommended in our guidelines and one factor is that in our society, people, both adults and kids, have replaced physical activity with time sitting in front of screens – so-called “screen time.”

So, while we first and foremost advise all Americans to meet the recommended levels of physical activity, we also recognize the importance of getting those who are totally inactive to start by doing something. Our message is one of incremental change: if you’re doing nothing, do something; if you’re doing something, do a bit more. This is the core of our goal to ‘improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% by the year 2020’.

We believe we must be bold to be successful, and we assure you that the American Heart Association refuses to sit on the sidelines, or stand around helplessly, watching as physical inactivity increases Americans’ risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Rather, we are going to ‘get in the game’ and get active to address this growing crisis.

GMA interviewed an epidemiologist with the CDC, who stated, “the amount of activity that one gains from these active gaming devices is inconclusive in terms of its benefits on health”. However, common sense says any time spent in physical activity is better than no time, and as people choose leisure time activities, it is important for us to encourage them to move from sedentary activities to those that get them moving. Actually, there is recent research that points out the substantial impact even of posture on the calories we burn during our non-exercise periods. Standing is better than sitting is better than lying down on the couch or in the recliner. This supports the idea that even small changes can be beneficial. We strongly support research that can establish conclusively the long-term benefits of physical activity, but the enormous numbers of people who are very sedentary can’t wait for that research, and we feel it would be inappropriate to wait the many years it will take for the final results of such research to be delivered. An innovation forum that will be supported by funds from the sponsorship, but developed with complete freedom by the AHA, will bring together investigators in the very areas of research critical to moving this field of prevention forward.

GMA reported, “we looked at their marketing documents, which say that carrying the label is proven to boost sales, (leading to) big money for the Heart Association and big money for the manufacturers.” However, the logo and materials that GMA were referring to were associated with our “Food Certification” program, which is, by design, revenue neutral. That means that the fees taken in go to cover the costs that it takes to run the program, as well as educate the public on nutrition and how to make healthier food choices. The Heart Check program, which consumers trust and understand, does charge food companies who believe they have products that meet our nutritional and marketing criteria a service charge to participate in our program. The service charge covers the costs for staff to compare products against the criteria, for the laboratory analysis of products, and to educate the consumer about the program. We determined when we developed the Heart Check program that we wanted to keep this program separate from our donor dollars. The donations from volunteers and supporters that the AHA receives covers research and our professional and public education efforts.

As for the money Nintendo contributed to the American Heart Association, the majority of the $1.5 million funds our prevention platform, aimed at educating Americans about heart disease and stroke prevention. A portion of the money funds Nintendo’s presence at our local Start! Heart Walk events across the country. Additionally, Nintendo is contributing $350,000 for a multidisciplinary forum of representatives from areas such as health care, research, physical activity, fitness and video gaming. The goal will be to bring together thought leaders, each with a unique perspective, to take a closer look at the synergies and potential benefits of active-play video games and physically active lifestyles, as well as to suggest urgent areas for research in the future.

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