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How comics can drive behaviour change in the areas of health and the environment
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How comics can drive behaviour change in the areas of health and the environment

The cover page of the first issue of the 'Plastic Nightmare' comic. The illustration depicts a predatory creature above a university campus.

Comics are often associated with graphic novels filled with heroes, villains, and other colourful characters. Comics are fiction stories condensed into compelling visual narratives. Comics have been around since their infancy. In the 1920sComics have been adapted to many fiction subgenres as well as to non-fiction settings, including the evolution to superhero fiction in 1960s.

Comics are being used more often to influence attitudes and behavior. various settings. Comics can be used to support our understanding Information about healthAn area we call Graphic medicine. They can also serve as an educational tool in the area of Environment issuesThese are sometimes referred to as eco-comics.

Graphic medicine

The ability to visually explain complex medical procedures and health treatments can help improve your mental and physical health. Health literacyYou can help them. Keep taking their medication. They can also be of assistance Allay your anxietyPatients before surgery.

Comic novels can encourage people to read and engage in health information and advice. Health screeningHelping to prevent Chronic conditions.

The cover page of the first issue of the 'Plastic Nightmare' comic. The illustration depicts a predatory creature above a university campus.
Plastic Nightmare is one of the comics that we have created.
Jim Lavery, Author provided

Comics and images from comics were used during the current pandemic to show how COVID-19 spreads, and how our behavior can affect it.

Researchers believe comics provide more health benefits than just being entertaining. accessible mediumPublic health information. However, comics can be used to connect with and develop empathy for comic characters. This can influence their perceptions regarding health risk. If they see a positive outcome, they may try to imitate their behavior (a concept called modeling).

Comics have also seen a steady increase in popularity to share patients’ lived experiences. Chronic physical illnessAnd Mental health conditions.
These comics can be a resource to those with similar health problems. They allow others to validate their experiences, such as fear, uncertainty and isolation, and then present the information. Advice and solutionsThrough the narrative.

Healthcare providers may also find it helpful to look at comics that show the lives of patients with illness. EmpathiseThis can help improve the quality and efficiency of their care.

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Young people can be educated about health through soap operas.

Together with a friend, I have created a comic called Diabetes Cyberspace. Comic artistA group of young people with type 1 diabetes from the UK and Ireland. The themes of the comic were derived from interviews with these young adults (our findings are published in a pre-print). The comic depicts the story of a young man with type 1 diabetes, and the effects that diabetes-related social networking content has on his mental well-being.

This comic is meant to be used as an educational resource to show the difficulties that young people with type-1 diabetes face. It also contains tips and advice to help young people with type 1 diabetes navigate the internet.

The cover page of the first issue of the 'Diabetes Cyberspace' comic. The illustration depicts three people in a car, including a young person on a smartphone.
Cyberspace Diabetes
Jim Lavery, Author provided

Research has shown the potential benefits comics as communication tools in areas such as PhysicalAnd Mental health. However, most evidence about comics is speculative and based on speculation. Theoretical studies(where researchers analyse and observe the content of the comic) Qualitative studies.

A lack of Empirical studiesIt is difficult to assess the impact of comics on health-related outcomes like knowledge and behaviour change.

We hope that the Diabetes Cyberspace comic will be evaluated to assess its effectiveness as a communication tool and educational resource for young people with type-1 diabetes and their caregivers. In turn, this will help fill the knowledge gap.

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Pow! Pow!


Comics can also be used to enhance learning Environment issues. Similar to graphic medicine, there is not much evidence that ecological comics can influence environmental attitudes or behaviours.

However, the recent use of an eco-comicPositive results were seen in primary schools in East Africa. The children showed positive results in their conservation knowledge after the comic was read to them. Another year later, the questionnaires revealed that the children had improved their conservation knowledge.

Other research showed that a comic illustrating more sustainable ways of disposing waste led to significant improvements. waste disposal habits among people in Nigeria.

These studies provide information in an easier way and highlight the potential of eco-comics for increasing environmental literacy and promoting conservation.

A scene from the comic 'Plastic Nightmare'. It depicts a dinosaur looking in through the window of a science lab.
Plastic Nightmare.
Jim Lavery, Author provided

We have also developed an innovative new product recently. Ecological comicTales of Ecological Terror A Plastic Nightmare. To co-design the comic, we held face-to-face workshops and online workshops with Queens University Belfast staff and students.

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Through a humorous and emotional narrative, the comic aims at raising awareness about the harmful effects of plastic waste. We envision that the comic will be piloted at different educational settings in order to measure its potential effect on ecological literacy, attitudes, and behaviour.

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