Professor wins Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant

November 16, 2016

Elena Bertozzi sits at a table with 4 other students in the conference room in the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Elena Bertozzi, of Wallingford, associate professor of game design and development at Quinnipiac, has been awarded a $100,000 Global Grand Challenges Grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Grand Challenges is a family of initiatives fostering innovation to solve key global health and development problems. Bertozzi and Dr. Aparna Sridhar, of UCLA’s School of Medicine, will design and deploy an innovative method for understanding cultural norms that influence future family planning decisions in adolescents in Karnataka, India, using a game-like tool that collects information about childbearing intentions and family planning values. The data will be used to design more effective family planning educational materials in the future.

“The game team and I are very excited about this opportunity to effect positive behavior change through play,” Bertozzi said. “We thank the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the opportunity for Quinnipiac faculty members and students to apply our game design skills to helping youth make informed choices about family planning methods."

"Leveraging the internet and the ubiquity of social games, we hope to demonstrate that intractable problems can be addressed through innovative uses of technology,” remarked Bertozzi.

Bertozzi and Sridhar will develop a simulation game for male and female students, ages 15-19, in which players will define and manage a virtual ideal family and, in the process, communicate core family planning values. The project will be developed in collaboration with the new Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Quinnipiac. The game will be tested on 300 urban and rural students enrolled in the JSS Educational Institutions in Karnataka.

To receive funding, participants had to propose a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas, including behavior change.

In 2014, Bertozzi used a Gates grant to assist the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico and the Research Consortium on HIV/AIDS and TB to create a game-based intervention to educate men who have sex with men in Mexico about preventing HIV.

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