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Virtual food workshops will be held to celebrate minority health month

ATHENS, Ohio (April 11, 2007) -- Ohio University students and Athens community members are invited to learn more about the impact of their food choices in an online virtual restaurant environment.

The April 12 workshop will use a virtual Chinese restaurant to teach participants about making healthy Asian food choices.Ohio University's Virtual Immersive Technologies and Arts for Learning Laboratory, or VITAL Lab, in conjunction with the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, will hold two interactive workshops in Second Life to promote healthy eating choices in Asian and Pan-African foods. The workshops will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. on consecutive Thursdays, April 12 and April 19, in Stocker Center room 414. The goal of the events is to raise awareness of the impact of food on cardiovascular diseases through innovative use of a three-dimensional virtual environment called Second Life. 

The April 12 workshop will focus on Asian health and cuisine and feature guest speaker Xiaozhuo Chen, an Ohio University associate professor of microbiology from China. The April 19 session will feature Haiti native Ingrid Auguste-Keesey discussing healthy food choices in Pan-African cuisine. Both workshops are free and open to the public. 

Participants in the workshop will learn about the effect of traditional ethnic foods on health through a fun and educational nutrition game that allows them to make food choices according to Asian or Pan-African traditions. After choosing foods, they will learn about the impact they have on cardiovascular health. Ohio University computer science graduate student Tessa Cooper and Ohio University Without Boundaries Project Manager Christopher Keesey created the nutrition game. 

The April 19 workshop will teach healthy Pan-African food choices."The Second Life virtual world is a fun and educational space where we've created an interactive game that truly explores the effect of your food choices on your body," said Andy Goodnite, assistant manager of the VITAL Lab.

The Ohio Commission on Minority Health, which gave Chang Liu, assistant professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, a $2000 grant to host the two Minority Health Month events, made the workshops possible. 

"With the support from the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, we worked with Ohio University Without Boundaries to unleash the power of 3-D online virtual environments in health education," Liu said. "The nutrition game is just the beginning of our efforts to engage visitors of the Second Life virtual world in entertaining and informative activities."

Second Life is a game-life, appealing, networked virtual collaboration environment. The Ohio University VITAL Lab, is a multidisciplinary research and development unit. It is a collaboration of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, the College of Education, the College of Fine Arts and Ohio University Without Boundaries. The mission of the VITAL Lab is to create appealing immersive virtual environments and synthetic worlds to enhance teaching, learning, and training activities.

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Media Contact: Andrew Goodnite, 740-593-2913 or goodnite@ohio.edu

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