Incentivizing collective, healthy decision-making in families at the right time and place


using game design to hack childhood obesity with partnership for a healthier america


PHA Innovation Challenge Winner
Presented at 2014 Building a Healthier Future Summit


The PHA Innovation Challenge brought together 8 teams of designers, engineers and communications professionals to tackle childhood obesity in two design challenges:
1. Healthy Curriculum in Schools
2. Access to healthy food and physical activity for low-income families.

My team consisted of three designers, an engineer and a communications professional. Having just met, we came together based on a mutual interest in physical activity and healthy eating in consumer-facing contexts. We had 24 hours to dig into research, prototype a and present a solution addressing challenge #2 to a board of PHA board members and White House officials who would then choose a winner from each challenge category. The two winning teams would present their prototypes to an audience of 1000+ industry leaders alongside Michelle Obama at PHA's Building a Healthier Future Summit in Washington DC. Superfuel was chosen to as one of them.


The challenge RESEARCH

Obesity rates among 2-5 year olds dropped significantly in the last decade, yet 17% of youth remain obese. Lower-income individuals, African-Americans, Latinos, American Indians and those living in the southern United States are more affected than their counterparts. Impacting their situations is the fact that impoverished areas have less access to parks, bikes, paths and safe places where children can be physically active, as well as less access to affordable, nutritious food.

Farmers markets that take food stamps do exist, as do cooking classes and healthy meal programs. And increasingly, low-cost or free physical activities are becoming available for kids and families.

Why aren't we seeing a rapid increase in the health status of these communities?

Finding information can be difficult for time-strapped parents, and access to public programs can be difficult to navigate. Parents who want to offer activities to their kids often have trouble figuring out what’s available when, who’s eligible, and how to get their kids there. Furthermore, parents may not know which foods are best for their children, and may opt for readily accessible, inexpensive fast food rather than other, healthier alternatives.

Lastly, the majority of knowledge around food and physical activity comes from the home. Decisions and habits are often passed down from parents to children, impacting the health of future generations.

How might we enable time-strapped families to navigate healthy decisions in their communities that create healthy habits

The Frame

As programs and services that tackle obesity become increasingly available, How can we make them more accessible to families in low-income communities where time and necessary information is limited. 


Key hypotheses

  • Well-timed incentives at convenient places can change behavior

  • Empowering kids with decision-making about family dinner will facilitate more family dinner.

  • If families are incentivized to purchase healthy food, the spike in demand will shift a community's access to quality food.


How it works

SuperFuel is a mobile app and web-based platform that motivates families to achieve superhero status by eating dinner and being active together on a weekly basis.  Everyone starts out as a superhero and as they complete missions, they unlock superpowers and supersavings, all the while forming a new, healthy habit. 

At the beginning of each week, family members vote on family meal and an activity.  Once all votes have been placed, parents are notified and at the same time connected to local resources and discounts that help them help their family to achieve the missions. Upon completion family members earns points.   revs you up for more challenges, and secures a healthier future for all. 


At the beginning of each week 


Our Solution

Superfuel is a mobile app prototype that engages families in healthy habits through collective and fun decision-making. Motivated by friendly competition and a unique incentive program, kids achieve superhero status through weekly dinner and activity missions. The more they participate, the more super they get and the greater the rewards. 

Missions are dinner or activity based. Dinner missions put affordable, healthy ingredients in the family shopping basket. Once products are in their basket, our partner brands ping parents to nearby stores where they can find them. Successful activity missions deliver different, incredible super powers each week to the family superhero. 

As they complete missions throughout the month, families earn increasing amounts of points that they can exchange for brand-partner discounts and rewards, revving them up for more challenges and an increasingly healthier future. 



Designed and developed a fully functioning native android application that supports healthy decision-making in families.  Made possible by savvy teammate Aaron's Clickside solution.

PHA Innovation Challenge Winner
Presented at Building a Healthier Future Summit 2014

Approached by several very interested food processor brands who were keen on seeing it come to life.