MacArthur Foundation Grant Helps Melissa Gilliam Change the Game

Melissa Gilliam, MD, MPH

Melissa Gilliam, MD, MPH

Continuing today’s theme of UChicago researchers being recognized for their outstanding work, Dr. Melissa Gilliam’s Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry & Innovation in Sexual & Reproductive Health (Ci3) at the University of Chicago has received a $500,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to advance its work identifying novel solutions to complex problems affecting health and well-being in vulnerable communities.

The grant will help support the creation of the Design Lab for Game Changer Chicago (GCC), Ci3’s signature initiative to investigate how playing and designing games can promote the social and emotional well-being of youth and improve sexual and reproductive health outcomes. Tiffani Washington has more in our Newsroom:

Officially launched in November 2012, Ci3 unites University of Chicago researchers across multiple disciplines to examine issues surrounding reproductive health, sexuality, and the underlying systems and disparities in access that affect physical, emotional, social and economic well-being over the course of life. Those disciplines include medicine, English, sociology, economics, law, public policy, human development, gender studies, epidemiology, demography, business, neuroscience and psychology. Ci3’s focus lies in five areas: global sexual and reproductive health, which includes family planning; the intersection of child and youth health, development and connected learning; sexual and reproductive decision-making; adolescent and unintended pregnancy; and obesity and its impact on reproductive health.

Game Changer Chicago is among the dawning Ci3 endeavors, predating its formal inception. The initiative’s use of gaming concepts, critical inquiry and storytelling techniques to engage youth in matters of sexual and emotional health has already garnered interest and praise locally and nationally.

I spoke to Gilliam last year about Game Changer and Stork, the interactive online mystery they developed to teach kids about sexual health. Since then the lab has also developed a card game and an online video game called Lucidity. Gilliam said the process helps kids engage with topics they’d normally shy away from by including them in the creative process. “I think when things are overtly educational, they get much more painful for kids. We’re trying to overcome that by designing things with them,” she said.

And it’s working. To read more about Dr. Gilliam and what drives her to this line of work, see this great profile from the Chicago Tribune.

About Matt Wood (531 Articles)
Matt Wood is a senior science writer and manager of communications at the University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences Division.
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