Narrative health communication: Exploring how medical comics can be designed to support children with serious illness

DS 91: Proceedings of NordDesign 2018, Linköping, Sweden, 14th - 17th August 2018

Year: 2018
Editor: Ekströmer, Philip; Schütte, Simon and Ölvander, Johan
Author: Søreide, Inga Nedrebø; Høiseth, Marikken; Vis, Anne Carlijn
Series: NordDESIGN
Institution: Norwegian University of Science and Technology
ISBN: 978-91-7685-185-2


Information can empower and create understanding among patients, although some topics can be difficult to talk about. For instance, it can be difficult for parents to talk with their seriously ill child and her or his siblings about the illness and its treatment. The purpose of this paper is to examine contemporary medical comics as a form of narrative health communication and to provide designers with some considerations on how to use visual and written elements for supporting favorable communication between children with serious illness and their families and other caregivers. A content analysis of three medical comics was conducted to identify and compare how narrative communication has been applied and relates to a set of narrative health communication benefits. In addition, as coping literature review was carried out to identify how narrative communication can be optimized for application in medical comics. The analysis showed that the medical comics for children ended on a positive note, even when describing very emotional and existential issues, while the comic for adults described more realistic situations. Furthermore, the analysis revealed that stories with human characters might be better at creating a feeling of companionship compared to stories with fictive characters, as comics that present narratives about patients can offer companionship to readers that are patients themselves. Based on the literature review, the moderators of character identification and sequence coherence have been investigated and discussed from a health communication perspective

Keywords: Narrative health communication, medical comics, information design, children, parents


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