The Engagement Lab received the 2018 Gaming Award from the International Society for Neglected Tropical Diseases (ISNTD) Festival, which highlights efforts in arts, science, communication and entertainment that strive to address global challenges in tropical diseases. The festival recognized Handwashing with Ananse and Hygiene with Chhota Bheem, two of the Lab’s game projects in Ghana and India, for outstanding impact on reducing the spread of diseases associated with poverty. Each game encourages handwashing with soap and water for children 7–11 years old and advocacy for better hygiene conditions.
“Handwashing with Ananse and Hygiene with Chhota Bheem were co-designed with children and organizations from the communities they are intended to reach, so the curricula feature culturally relevant characters and activities. Each uses play to immerse children in a storyworld to learn about important public health messages, in ways that are relevant to them.”
— Mary Beth Dawson, Project Manager at the Engagement Lab.
Through interactive stories of Ananse the Spider, a traditional character from Ghanaian folklore, Handwashing with Ananse teaches primary school children in Ghana the importance of handwashing. Hygiene with Chhota Bheem is centered around the popular Indian cartoon character Bheem, who teaches children to defeat an evil Germ Wizard by washing their hands and using the toilet. In both projects, children are encouraged to play games based on the stories, practice handwashing with soap and soapy water as well as teach their peers what they have learned.
“The Engagement Lab’s expertise is in designing media experiences that motivate public mindedness and action taking. These projects are exciting demonstrations of the power of play in encouraging individuals to take care of the public’s health.”
— Eric Gordon, Executive Director of the Engagement Lab and Professor at Emerson College.
Handwashing with Ananse was designed in partnership with UNICEF Ghana and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. Hygiene with Chhota Bheem was developed in partnership with Green Gold Animation, the Indian Red Cross Society, the Mary Anne Charity Trust, and a Working Group of NGOs and civil society groups dedicated to improving sanitation and hygiene in Tamil Nadu. Both were designed and playtested with children in Ghana and India over several months through partnerships with the Red Cross. The design and evaluation of Handwashing with Ananse and Hygiene with Chhota Bheem were made possible by funding from UNICEF Ghana and the UBS Optimus Foundation.