Friday, December 14, 2012

Patient education offers comic relief


HEALTHY LAUGHS: Leamy and Sikora


Susie and Ray are gearing up for the holidays in vastly different ways. Ray is frazzled and worried and isn’t properly taking care of himself. Susie on the other hand feels prepared and positive about the upcoming season. She even starts an impromptu dance party in her kitchen as a way to unwind and laugh with her family. At quick glance, it’s easy to see which life is the best to emulate. And that’s just what the MGH Diabetes Education Program hopes its new comic series provides patients – quick and fun educational tips to help them on the path to a healthier life.

“It’s a great way to tackle wordy topics,” says Chrisanne Sikora, the diabetes program’s project manager for social media. “When you receive a lot of information, sometimes your eyes start to glaze over – it’s a lot to take in all at once. With this type of educational material, people can see immediately what the end goal is – things like they should eat more slowly and chew their food – they know that this is behavior they should model. The visual format helps get that point across quickly.”

The idea to incorporate comics into patient education materials was sparked when someone mentioned that Catherine Leamy, a web developer in the MGH Laboratory of Computer Science, was a cartoonist in her spare time. “I’ve been drawing my whole life for fun,” Leamy says. “Using comics in the medical field is really starting to take off and gain more momentum. There is so much potential because it helps people quickly identify emotions and also helps those who may have low literacy.”


The creative process began earlier this year when Sikora and Leamy met to brainstorm potential topics that would work well told in the comic format. When faced with naming the characters, they reached out to the MGH community for suggestions – which resulted in Susie and Ray officially being brought to life. With the initial two comics available on the Diabetes Education Program’s blog, “Diabetes Views,” Sikora and Leamy are now in the process of working on the next comics in the series.

“I really like to create comics where people see themselves in the characters so they can really relate to the topic and see that it is reasonable and doable,” Leamy says. “I want them to go away thinking, ‘This is simple. I can do this.’”

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