“Professor Wellbody’s Academy of Health & Wellness” is aimed at enhancing the individual health and wellness of people throughout the region by empowering them to take control of their own daily lifestyle choices.
The concept for the exhibit was initiated in 2006, thanks to a generous early planning grant from Group Health.
This funding allowed PSC and an advisory group composed of the area’s health experts to develop this innovative exhibition.
Other organizations, including The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, came on board to provide additional sponsorship and critical leadership assistance.
“We are so appreciative of the support that we have received from so many facets of the healthcare community,” says Bryce Seidl, PSC president and CEO. “This support reinforces our belief that broad community commitment is growing for recognizing that improvements in our health coming from our personal behaviors is a vital component in our national challenge for improving health care. This is truly a project built by the community, for the community that will enhance the lives of our guests now and in the future.”
The exhibit boasts 7,000 square feet of hands-on inventions, gadgets, activities and experiences that present health as a lifelong process of balancing exercise, diet, rest and hygiene.
Visitors enter through Wellbody Hall, the central area of the Academy, featuring core educational content about behavior change.
Featured are several interactive stations including the “Wellness Strategy Optimizer,” for example, which helps individuals learn about setting manageable goals.
“Influence Decoder” is a media presentation encouraging viewers to consider how advertising can influence wellness decisions. “Barrier Feud,” a video game in the style of “Family Feud,” presents survey questions for three topics: fitness, nutrition and sleep.
Players are asked to identify barriers to wellness and then identify potential solutions to the obstacles.
One of the most popular activities with kids is “With a Little Help …”
Enlisting the help of friends, participants join to guide a ball through a large complex maze where junctions are marked with choices to seek the support of friends or try to succeed on your own. The message is clear — behavior is more easily modified with the assistance of others.
Another area of the “Academy” is the “Playdium,” a fitness area that emphasizes the importance of movement to wellness.
At “Sugar Burners,” two exercise devices (a recumbent bike and an ADA accessible hand crank mechanism) help visitors understand how much time it takes to burn off a sugared beverage.
“Whirligigerator,” another popular station, is an elevated contraption linking multiple fitness challenges with a kinetic display serving as both incentive and reward.
The idea is to engage in one of the three activities at the base, which transmits physical movements to the mechanism above, allowing it to respond proportionately to the effort generated.
Another fitness challenge is available at “Loft-a-Palooza,” a high-reaching apparatus that involves using several attached devices to charge pressure tanks with enough air to launch balls up toward a series of targets overhead. The targets are contained within suspended netting enclosures that serve to hold the launched balls and then return them by gravity to the reservoir of the launcher.
“Cafedium” is the area of the exhibit where visitors learn about what their bodies need from food and how to eat more healthily.
Within this section, there are a number of interesting and fun activities such as the “Food Analyzer,” which checks the nutritional content of different foods that can be selected from a conveyor belt.
At “Burger Planet,” participants can engage in a scripted role-playing experience within a fast food drive-through situation.
The operator helps a customer to evaluate his or her fast food selections in terms of caloric “price tags.”
The issue of sleep is explored in the “Slumbertorium,” through a series of interactive stations including the “Sleep Machine,” “Sleeping in Seattle” and “A Bad Night’s Sleep,” among others, which help visitors to understand the importance of proper sleep and the links between obesity and sleep apnea.
Personal hygiene takes a front seat in “Germnasium.”
Here, visitors can learn how to properly wash their hands using SureWash, a system designed to train hospital workers to correctly wash their hands.
At the “Sneeze Wall,” where kids of all ages tend to congregate, a large projection of people sneezing entices you to enter a space where you are subsequently “sneezed on” by an array of water misters arranged above.
On screen factoids note the necessity of covering up when you sneeze.
“A Healthy Mouth” explores items that are either good or bad for oral health. And at “Odor Decoder,” you can learn about the different causes of bad breath.
On the upstairs level of the exhibit is “The Loft,” a special area that reflects on wellness over a lifetime.
Individuals can take a picture of themselves in the onsite photo booth and hang it up on the “Journey Wall,” creating a composite snapshot of aging.
They can also see what kind of impact specific health and wellness choices can have on their physical appearance as they age at “Face Facts,” where software transforms your image based on factors of weight, sun exposure and smoking.
In addition to providing invaluable tools for behavior change, “The Studio,” a unique space within “Wellbody Academy,” showcases current health research occurring in the community.
It provides opportunities for visitors to connect with the scientists doing this groundbreaking work, while allowing them to explore careers in the fields of health and medicine.
The featured theme and content in “The Studio” will change every six months. The topic currently under investigation is genetics. Others to follow include neuroscience, translational medicine, environment and health and cancer.
For more information about “Professor Wellbody’s Academy of Health & Wellness,” as well as Pacific Science Center’s other exhibits: (206) 443-2001 or www.pacificsciencecenter.org.