Playing at Health Game: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?

Lynnissa Hillman
Northern Kentucky University
Northern Kentucky University Teen Health Science Cafe


A focus on health topics doesn’t mean we’re limited to just nurses and doctors at the NKU Teen Health Science Cafe. In our second cafe, we brought in Medical Sociologist Lynnissa Hillman to talk about health disparities. Professor Hillman explained her journey to sociology and how it connects to the health field. Students learned about the impact social structure has on our everyday lives and health. We also learned about her research on the infant mortality disparities that disproportionately affects African American mothers in Cincinnati and across the county.

Hands on Activity

Teens explore inequality in our society and how it effects health

Teens in Kentucky explore life choices that affect health by playing a game.

Our hands on activity was the “Playing at Health Game.” Students grouped up to form a family and reviewed their family’s profile. Each profile described the family’s socioeconomic status, number of family members, type of home, type of income, community, and the family’s goals. The objective for each group was to provide their family members with the basic necessities, provide their children with the best possible education, and maintain the physical and mental well-being of each family member. Students had to rapidly create a budget based on their income and goals using a cost of living guide.

After students created their budgets, they were faced with life events. Our presenter walked around and randomly handed out “Life Happens” cards and the students then had to revise their budgets. Life Happens cards ranged from the good (receiving a $2,000 tax refund) to the bad (The school nurse calls. Your child fell and broke an arm).

At the end each group shared how their family family budget changed throughout this process. Students especially reflected on how difficult it is to create a budget and have the ideal life. For example, many students wanted to have more expensive organic food for their families, but realized it was far too expensive to maintain. We have attached the activity documents for this hands-on activity


Life Happens – Family Profiles (Health)

Life Happens – Playing the Game of HealthLife Happens – Family Profiles (Health)