Fitwits is an obesity prevention and health literacy research project that uses games and character-driven narratives to transform unhealthy lifestyles into healthy ones. The Fitwits project operates in schools, physician offices, community centers, and homes in several Pittsburgh area neighborhoods (including Lawrenceville, Wilkinsburg and McKeesport).
Since 2007, Fitwits projects have engaged children, parents, teachers, school administrators, physicians, and community leaders in the design process to work towards healthy changes at the personal, family, organizational, and policy levels.
To kids, Fitwits is an engaging, hands-on, educational experience to learn basic health information about obesity told through the voice of fun cartoon characters, the Fitwits and the Nitwits.
To parents, Fitwits is a non-threatening and easy to use approach to talking about health at home.
To educators, Fitwits is a series of tools to help integrate health learning into the classroom and school environment.
To doctors, Fitwits is a tool proven to reduce barriers with patients when discussing obesity and obesity-related diseases.
Fitwits is a collaborative research project designed by Carnegie Mellon University School of Design and UPMC Saint Margaret Family Health Centers. We are funded by the Heinz Endowments.
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fitwits functions not only as an easy-to-use educational tool, but also as a program with the ability to bridge the gaps in nutrition education and awareness. It is multi-use, and reflects recent thinking within obesity education, echoing calls for “an ecological model,” wherein a strong emphasis is placed on the confluence of family, community, and society in public health interventions. The program addresses the problem of obesity reduction via a simultaneous three-pronged approach between the individuals’ school, community, and doctors’ office environments (insert diagram).
Simply put, the Fitwits program
Currently, the Fitwits School Program is used in fifth grade classrooms in five urban schools affiliated with a school health partnership. This partnership pairs family medicine resident physicians with schools to provide health promotion and education. The fifth graders are racially diverse and primarily live in low-to-mid socioeconomic urban families.
In doctors’ offices, the Fitwits MD flash cards provide physicians with an office tool specifically designed to help doctors engage 9- to12-year-olds and their families during Well Child visits. Tools and games break down the barriers to effective discussion between doctors and families about childhood obesity. These barriers include: time pressure, hesitation to discuss obesity, confusion about body mass index (BMI) growth charts and other messages, family reluctance to recognize the problem, and the lack of an effective strategy.
Most recently we are working on developing “Fitwits Zones.” We have created Fitwits Zones in local community centers and schools to engage families in healthy lifestyle activities. While the school and family health clinic interventions occur once per student and/or patient, the Fitwits Zones engage parents and families over longer periods of time.
In the Fall of 2010, Fitwits teamed up with a charter school in McKeesport to engage 122 families in the six-month long Fitwits game challenge called “I am Fitwits”. The school environment can be a strong proponent of healthy behavior change. Based on a system of incentives, rewards, and competition, the positive changes we have seen through six months of playing the game are undeniable.
Since the game started, several new initiatives in the McKeesport school and the surrounding community have taken off. These include:
To find out what we're up to, please contact us: 412-268-6937 or email@example.com.
MCGAFFEY A, ABATEMARCO DJ, JEWELL IK, FIDLER SK, HUGHES K. Fitwits MD™: An Office-Based Tool and Games for Conversations about Obesity with 9- to 12-Year-Old Children. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine November-December 2011; 24(6):768-71.
MCGAFFEY A, HUGHES K, FIDLER SK, D'AMICO FJ, STALTER MN. Can Elvis Pretzley and the Fitwits improve knowledge of obesity, nutrition, exercise, and portions in fifth graders? International Journal of Obesity (Lond) 2010; 34(7): 1134-42.
HUGHES, KRISTIN AND DAHLIA RAO. “Making, Co-creating and Testing Games: Learning about Nutrition through Play – Fitwits,” Published in the conference proceedings for FLUX: Design Education in a Changing World. Capetown, South Africa. October 2007.
Invited Conference Speaking Engagements
HUGHES K. Social Innovation and Fitwits: Ten Lessons Learned. American Industrial Design Association (AIGA), Pivot Design Conference. Phoenix, Arizona. October 2011.
HUGHES K. Fitwits: A Case Study. Let’s Move Pittsburgh: Feeding the Spirit, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh, PA. October 2011.
HUGHES K. Using Design Thinking to Help Reverse Childhood Obesity: The Fitwits Program. Mayo Clinic’s Transform 2011–Designing Solutions. Inspiring Health. Rochester, Minnesota. September 2011.
Peer Reviewed Conference Presentations
SCUPELLI P, HUGHES K. Socio-ecological service design: integrated
services for individuals, families, organizations, and communities. International Service Design Conference, San Francisco, CA. October 2011
WISLO V, HALTIGAN J, SCOPAZ K. The sustained use of the Fitwits office tool: Equipping residency-based physicians to discuss childhood obesity with preadolescents. Resident research in progress presentation. 2011 Family Medicine Education Consortium (FMEC) Northeast Region Meeting, Danvers, October 2011.
WISLO V, HALTIGAN J, SCOPAZ K, MCGAFFEY A. Preparing residency-based physicians to discuss childhood obesity with preadolescents: Baseline results, "The Sustained Use of the Fitwits Office Tool" Best Research Presentation, Resident Category. Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians Research Day. State College, PA, March 2011.
HUGHES K, SCUPELLI P, FIDLER S, MCGAFFEY A. Think, Make, Evaluate, (Evolve): Designing participatory tools to better understand how to help physicians communicate with families about obesity. A case study in sustainable co-design. Challenges and Opportunities for Design Research, Education and Practice in the XXI Century. LeNS Conference, Bangalore, India, October 2010.
FITWITS: USING GAMES TO LEARN ABOUT PORTION, NUTRITION, AND HEALTH CHOICES 42nd Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM) Annual Conference. Presentation co-authored with Susan Fidler, MD, Ann McGaffey, MD, and Kristin Hughes. Denver, CO. May 2009.
THINK, MAKE, EVALUATE: DESIGNING PARTICIPATORY TOOLS WITH CHILDREN, FOR CHILDREN. Social Studies: Educating Designers in a Connected World, American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Conference. Baltimore, MD. October 2008.
DESIGNING MEANINGFUL PLAY: A CASE STUDY INVOLVING QUEEN OF WHEAT & ELVIS PRETZLEY. Meaningful Play 2008 Conference. East Lansing, MI. October 2008.
CREATING TOOLS AND SERVICES THAT ENGAGE SCHOOLS, FAMILIES AND HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS TO CONSIDER AND DISCUSS HEALTH, NUTRITION AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY. Service Design Conference.. Co-authored with Kristin Hughes, Ann McGaffey, MD, and Susan Fidler, MD. Amsterdam, The Netherlands. November 2008
IDENTIFYING DESIGN OPPORTUNITIES WITHIN COMMUNITIES Hughes, Kristin, University of Cincinnati, School of Design, Cincinnati, OH. March 2009. Presented by invitation.
CO-DESIGNING WITH PHYSICIANS: OFFICE TOOLS THAT HELP FACILITATE BETTER CONVERSATIONS WITH PATIENTS, Hughes, Kristin, University of Cincinnati, School of Medicine, Cincinnati, OH. March 2009. Presented by invitation.
FITWITS: USING GAMES TO LEARN ABOUT HEALTH CHOICES, PORTION AND NUTRITION Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians Research Day. Best resident presentation. Co-authored with Susan Fidler, MD, Margaret Gibson, MD, Kristin Hughes, and Ann McGaffey, MD. Bedford Springs, PA. March 2008.
FITWITS: USING GAMES TO LEARN ABOUT PORTION, NUTRITION, AND HEALTH CHOICES 2008 Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Northeast Region Meeting. Presentation co-authored with Susan Fidler, MD, Ann McGaffey, MD., and Kristin Hughes. Baltimore, MD. November 2008.
THE SUSTAINED USE OF THE FITWITS OFFICE TOOL: EQUIPPING RESIDENCY-BASED PHYSICIANS TO DISCUSS CHILDHOOD OBESITY WITH PREADOLESCENTS. Poster, resident research in progress. 39th North American Primary Care Research Group (NAPCRG) Annual Meeting,. Valerie Wislo, MD, Ann McGaffey, MD, Kristen Scopaz, MD, Jill Haltigan, MD, Frank D'Amico, PhD, David Yuan, MD, Michael W. Bridges, PhD, Peter Scupelli, PhD, Kristin Hughes, MFA, Ilene Katz Jewell, MSHyg. Banff, Alberta, Canada. November 2011
FITWITS MD: AN INTERVENTION TO PREVENT CHILDHOOD OBESITY. American Academy of Health Behavior Meeting. Diane J. Abatemarco, PhD, MSW. Ann McGaffey, MD, Ilene Katz Jewell, MSHyg, Susan K. Fidler, MD, Kristin Hughes, MFA. Hilton Head, SC. March 2011.
PREPARING RESIDENCY-BASED PHYSICIANS TO DISCUSS CHILDHOOD OBESITY WITH PREADOLESCENTS: BASELINE RESULTS, “THE SUSTAINED USE OF THE FITWITS OFFICE TOOL.” Best resident presentation, 2011 Research Day, Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians. State College, PA. March 12, 2011. Wislo, Valerie, MD, Kristen Scopaz, MD, MD, and Jill Haltigan, MD. Acknowledgment David Yuan, MD, Ilene Katz Jewell, MSHyg, Frank D’Amico PhD, Peter Scupelli, PhD, Ann McGaffey, MD, Diane Abatemarco, PhD, Susan Fidler, MD, Kristin Hughes
RESIDENT PARTICIPATION IN FITWITS: IMPROVING COMMUNICATION WITH PARENTS AND CHILDREN REGARDING CHILDHOOD OBESITY. 2010 Family Medicine Education Consortium: NE Region Meeting, Co-authored with Valerie Wislo, MD, Adam Abdulally, MD, Stacey Brown, MD, Jill Haltigan, MD, Kristen Scopaz, MD, David Yuan, MD, et al. Hershey, PA. October 2010.
FITWITS MD: AN OFFICE GUIDE TO OBESITY COUNSELING FOR KIDS AND PARENTS. First Place award in the Resident and Fellows Poster Section, Pennsylvania Medical Society House of Delegates Annual Meeting, Co-authored with Adam Abdulally, MD, Jill Haltigan, MD, Ann McGaffey, MD, Kristin Hughes, and Susan Fidler, MD. Hershey, PA. October 2009.
FITWITS: TEACHING 5TH GRADERS ABOUT PORTION SIZES Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians Research Day. Co-authored with Jill Haltigan, MD, Kristen Scopaz, MD, Kristin Hughes, and Ann McGaffey, MD. Skytop, PA. March 2009.
CREATING TOOLS AND SERVICES THAT ENGAGE SCHOOLS, FAMILIES AND HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS TO CONSIDER AND DISCUSS HEALTH, NUTRITION AND PSYCHICAL ACTIVITY. Service Design Conference. Amsterdam, The Netherlands. November 2008. Co-authored with Kristin Hughes, Ann McGaffey, MD, and Susan Fidler, MD.
FITWITS: USING GAMES TO LEARN ABOUT HEALTH CHOICES, PORTION AND NUTRITION Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians. Bedford Springs, PA. March 2008. Co-authored with Susan Fidler, MD, Margaret Gibson, MD, Kristin Hughes, and Ann McGaffey, MD.
Fitwits™ is a collaborative research project designed by Carnegie Mellon University School of Design and UPMC St. Margaret Family Health Centers. We are funded by The Heinz Endowments. We would also like to thank the St. Margaret Foundation and the Allegheny County Medical Society for funding the evaluation of Fitwits MD.
Kristin Hughes is an Associate Professor in the School of Design Carnegie Mellon University. Recurring themes in her research and professional practice focus on utilizing design methods as a catalyst for community and civic engagement. She is currently looking at the design of products that allow participants agency over their own learning space. They are invited as co-creators in the design process, a process that they may eventually engage and sustain on their own. Most recently, this question has led her to explore game design, examining learning processes and ways that play spaces provide a powerful platform for uninhibited learning. Other projects include Click! Urban Adventure, an interactive role-playing game designed to immerse middle school girls in discipline-specific science, technology, engineering and mathematics activities. Hughes also collaborated on explanatoids, an interdisciplinary project funded by the National Science Foundation.
Ann McGaffey, MD is Medical Director of the UPMC St. Margaret Bloomfield Garfield Family Health Center and a faculty member of the UPMC St. Margaret Family Medicine Residency Program. Dr. McGaffey coordinates school health partnerships with five local elementary schools and The Neighborhood Academy. This collaboration pairs two institutions (education and medicine/health care) to address community and public health concerns relatively early in the lives of children.
Sarah Rafson earned her Honors Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto in Architecture Studies and Spanish, but found her passion lied in designing games, not buildings. She co-founded Conversation for Change, a group that collaborated with the Canadian Urban Institute to develop a board game as a tool for public engagement in problematic urban planning issues that was implemented in several locations throughout the city. As Coordinator of the Fitwits Zones, Sarah brings her expertise in games as tools for engagement and change, and her personal commitment to encouraging healthy lifestyle choices.
Nathan Mazur is a graduate of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. His skills include cartooning, animation, illustration, graphic design and web design. His work has been described as everything from cute and funny, to somewhat unnerving. He's done work for Disney Television, American Greetings, Carnegie Mellon University and numerous smaller companies, film makers, and individuals. Examples of his work can be found at www.scaredofbees.com.
Susan K. Fidler, MD, joined the Fitwits team as a first year resident, UPMC St. Margaret Family Medicine Residency Program, resident at the Bloomfield-Garfield FHC. Sue is a graduate of Penn State (Hershey) College of Medicine. Dr. Fidler paired her strong graduate school interest in nutrition and exercise with the introduction of a Fitwits one-hour class for the Pittsburgh Montessori 5th grade in May 2007. She has moved to Philadelphia, completed a Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship at Thomas Jefferson University, and is a practicing family physician.
Margaret Gibson, MD, assisted Fitwits as a second year resident and Co-Chief Resident, UPMC St. Margaret Family Medicine Residency Program. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Dr. Gibson has been integral to the introduction of Fitwits at Fort Pitt ALA School and Pittsburgh Montessori Elementary School. She completed a sports medicine fellowship and practices family medicine and sports medicine in Kansas City, Missouri.
Peter Scupelli, PhD, is a designer and a researcher. He is a visiting instructor in the Human Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. As a design researcher, he uses human centered design methods to uncover people’s wants, needs, and desires in the context of use. He focuses on problems with broader reach than individual products and seeks design solutions – whether a product, service, or environment – that are integrated into a designed system. Peter joined the Fitwits team in September 2009. He is researching obesity prevention in the five levels of the socio-ecological framework (i.e., individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and public policy). His Ph.D. dissertation in human computer interaction focused on how the architecture of the built environment around schedule displays support coordination. He has a master’s degree in interaction design from the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University, and an architecture degree from the Universita' di Genova in Italy.
Diane Abatemarco, PhD, MSW, Associate Professor of Population Health and Associate Professor of Pediatrics. She is also the Director of Doctoral Programs at the School of Population Health, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA. Her primary areas of expertise include evaluation research methods, survey research methods and behavioral epidemiology. Dr. Abatemarco is currently working with a team of pediatricians on a cluster study to treat obese children and prevent T2DM and NASH.
Frank J. D’Amico, PhD, Professor Department of Mathematics and Computer Science Duquesne University. He is the Director of Biostatistics and the Associate Director of Research in the UPMC St. Margaret Family Medicine Residency Program.
Diane Helsel, PhD, RD, CSSD, is a registered dietitian and assistant professor in the department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. She is a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) with the Commission on Dietetic Registration, a Certified Health/Fitness Specialist (HFS) with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and a licensed dietitian/nutritionist (LDN) in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. She received her bachelor’s degree in Clinical Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Pittsburgh, master’s degree in Food and Nutrition from Appalachian State University and doctoral degree in Exercise Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh.
Megan Montag, is a registered dietitian. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005 with a Bachelor's Degree in Clinical Dietetics and Nutrition. In 2007, she received her Masters Degree in Health Education and Promotion from East Carolina University. She has a certificate of training in pediatric and childhood weight management.
Laura Macbeth, MPH, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health, Behavioral and Community Health Sciences. She also has her Certificate of Health Education Specialist. Laura was on the on the evaluation team for Fitwits in 2008. Her role is Fitwits Champion for the three UPMC St. Margaret Family Health Centers: New Kensington Lawrenceville, and Bloomfield Garfield.
Dahlia Rao received a degree in Arts in Education at Harvard and later worked as the Studio Educator/Atelierista at the Cyert Center for Early Education. During the summer and fall of 2006, Rao collaborated with Prof. Hughes to begin the development of the Fitwits program. Rao participated in all aspects of the design process, with special focus on the research and presentation of its educational content.
Emily Welsh, MSW, former Family Health Coordinator, bridging and tracking the programs of the school health partnerships, the UPMC St. Margaret Family Medicine residents and fellows, and the students, faculty, and staff at our partnership schools. Ms. Welsh has effectively brought case management to school and after school children and improved coordination of scheduling between residents, teachers and classrooms. She is currently in NYC getting her Masters degree in teaching.
Sheila R. Beasley, University of Pittsburgh, Early Childhood Development Center, Outreach Director for Family Support Centers
Caryn Audenried, Amy Chang, Chris Chen, Melissa Dolin, Courtney Gooch, Maria Kim, James Liu, Raelynn Miles, Kelly May Nash, Caitlin Osbahr, Jung Yeun Paek, Jennifer Lynne Shirey, Carson Beyl, Alie Ruqian Zhou, Wes Johnson, Chongho Lee, Sarah Calandro, Julia Pellicciaro, Sophia Chan
UPMC St. Margaret Bloomfield Garfield Family Health Center
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh: Weight Management and Wellness Center Goutham Rao, MD, CM, Megan McQuaide, RD, Lindsey Detwiler, RD
UPMC St. Margaret Family Medicine Residency Program: Stacey L. Brown, MD,. Jill E. Haltigan, MD, Michelle N. Stalter, DO, Kristen A. Scopaz, MD, Valerie Wislo, MD, David Yuan, MD
Allegheny County Health Department, Joan Procopio, RD LDN, Darija Neureuter Wiswell, RD
Elementary Schools: Fort Pitt ALA, Woolslair, Arsenal, Pittsburgh Montessori and Urban League Charter of Pittsburgh School: 5th graders, principals, and teachers, a big thank you!
The Bloomfield Garfield Corporation
Pittsburgh Public Schools: Janet Yuhasz, MEd, Coordinator of Health Services
Parents and kids from East Liberty, McKeesport and Wilkinsburg
Josh Franzos, photographer, www.manwithcamera.com
Judy Dodd, MS, RD, LDN, Giant Eagle Corporate Nutritionist and University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
Whole Foods Market
Eat ‘n Park
Seeds for Peace
Dave Gancy, Copper Pot Corporation
Food Should Taste Good
Saturday Light Brigade
Necia Werner, Carnegie Mellon Department of English
Randy Weinberg, H&SS Information Systems
Cze-Ja Tam, Child Development and Psychology
© 2012 Fitwits. All Rights Reserved.