A Picture of Health!

Communicating health information to people with low literacy or people for whom English is a second language (ESL) is a considerable barrier to providing good healthcare to patients. However, animation can help!

In 2004, researchers at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Centre El Paso conducted a study on the effectiveness of animated cartoons in conveying information about polio vaccines. 

The study presented participants with identical information on polio vaccines in written pamphlet form and in an animated video. The results showed that transmission of the message plays a vital role in message delivery and that “a well-designed animated cartoon is more effective in delivering a message than the same information provided in written instructional materials.” 1.

The author of the study, Marie Leiner, went on to create a popular YouTube channel in which cartoon children turn into superheroes to challenge negative behaviour in peers. Check out the YouTube channel here.

In 2013 researchers at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science found that populations with low health research literacy are often more open to visual multimedia information. 

An animated video about health research participation was shown to focus groups. Participants were limited to English-speaking, lower literacy adults who self-identified as Latino, African American, Filipino, or Native Hawaiian. 

The video was seven minutes long and showed four adults of diverse age, gender, and ethnicity. The story follows the conversation of four work colleagues sharing their curiosity, reservations, and knowledge about health research participation.

After the video was screened, focus group interviews were conducted to evaluate responses to the use of animation. 

“The results indicate that…the majority of respondents felt that the animated characters were more relatable than live actors…Because animation is typically perceived as non-threatening, familiar and accessible across age groups, cultures and literacy levels, it may hold the attention of viewers and enhance recall. In addition, animation has been shown to be more effective than live-action as an educational tool because it gives filmmakers’ greater control over presentation, characterization, staging and timing, making it a powerful medium for conveying symbolic theories and concepts.” 2.

italk Studios is very familiar with the benefits of using animation to deliver health information. We’ve made stories about health issues like Trachoma and Crusted Scabies. We’ve even made a catchy song about Hepatitis B. Animation, narration, and song all help patients remember the information in the video, and the ability to translate animations helps overcome the language barriers often experienced by ESL people.

1. Marie Leiner, Gilbert Handal, Darryl Williams, Patient communication: a multidisciplinary approach using animated cartoons, Health Education Research, Volume 19, Issue 5, October 2004, Pages 591–595, https://doi.org/10.1093/her/cyg079 

2. George Sheba, Moran Erin, Duran Nelida, Jenders Robert A, Using animation as an information tool to advance health research literacy among minority participants. AMIA … Annual Symposium proceedings / AMIA Symposium. AMIA Symposium. 2013; 2013(4): 475-84George Sheba, Moran Erin, Duran Nelida, Jenders Robert A, Using animation as an information tool to advance health research literacy among minority participants. AMIA … Annual Symposium proceedings / AMIA Symposium. AMIA Symposium. 2013; 2013(4): 475-84.