Public health comics can build empathy and challenge misinformation

Media and communication scholars were speaking on How comics can humanize public health and challenge mis/dis-information.

Since the outburst of Covid-19 pandemics, our lives have been intertwined with data visualization. This induces the demand for rapid and productive online health information communication to the public. With the help of the Internet, comics have spread widely on social media nowadays. The easy-to-understand format combined with adopting iconography in accordance with local, regional, and national features make comics more engaged with readers. Besides, visual metaphors allow science communication more digestible. Visual comics, as a part of graphic medicine, therefore, are a useful medium for information circulation (McNicol 2017).

Dr. Anna Feigenbaum, in the review about Covid-19 comics and data visualization of everyday life, indicated that using data and comics to humanize health experiences could be an ideal strategy for public health education, media literacy, and health equities. Besides, speaker Mc Davitt mentioned comics can enhance comprehension and engagement with public health messages. Through comics, mental health messages and personal experiences are easily depicted and visualized. This helps to raise empathy in patients, care workers, and educational contexts, which can, eventually, promote behavior changes. Moreover, in the context of health information, “comics can offer patients and family members opportunities for self-awareness, reassurance, empathy, companionship and ways to explore the impact of illness on family relationships” (McNicol 2017, p. 20). 

Data comics are sometimes preferred to be used to communicate scientific data over infographics (Wang et al. 2019). Comics increase the efficacy of interpreting and transmitting complex data (Czerwiec et al. 2015). Alberda (2020) pointed out three main reasons why comics are efficient tools for data storytelling, which are their accessibility, approachability, and personal relevant levels. Visual Comics, therefore, are a useful medium for information circulation (McNicol 2017).

According to speaker Jonny Sexton, comics can address issues of health inequality among vulnerable communities including elderly people and BAME. Data comics, Chalabi comics, for example, can bring in underpinned problems relating to health inequities from social and economic perspectives during the pandemic. 

Post by Monachalabi. Found at:

Mellando (2021) highlighted the substantial role of the government in generating health information news and mainstream news organizations in maintaining “a strong elite orientation” on social media posts. Guest speakers suggested expert source references, mentions, captions ad bio links are some effective strategies to increase the accountability and credibility of online health information. Furthermore, comments to comic posts are also important as they accelerate intimacy and build trust between artists and audiences. Political and Covid debates on Twitter, for instant, were dominated by comments, which expressed deep insights into political polarisation in the US (Bolsover 2020).

Interestingly, as Anna noted in her talk “community uncertainty and acknowledgment chaos foster health media literacy” since scientific uncertainty does not correlate with mistrust but likewise builds trust between viewers and publishers. This helps to counter mis/dis-information problems.


Alamalhodaei, A., Alberda, A. P. and Feigenbaum, A., 2020. Humanizing data through ‘data comics’: An introduction to graphic medicine and graphic social science. Data Visualization in Society, 347.

Alberda, A. and Feigenbaum, A., 2021. Covid-19 Comics and the Data Visualisation of Everyday life. Bournemouth: Bournemouth University. Unpublished. 

Bolsover, G. and Tizon, J. T., 2020. Social Media and Health Misinformation during the US COVID Crisis. Leeds: Centre for Democratic Engagement, University of Leeds. 

Czerwiec, M., Williams, I., Squier, S. M., Green, M. J., Myers, K. R. and Smith, S. T., 2015. Graphic medicine manifesto. Penn State Press.

McNicol, S., 2017. The potential of educational comics as a health information medium. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 34(1), 20-31.

Mellado, C., Hallin, D., Cárcamo, L., Alfaro, R., Jackson, D., Humanes, M. L. and Ramos, A., 2021. Sourcing pandemic news: A cross-national computational analysis of mainstream media coverage of Covid-19 on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Digital Journalism, 9(9), 1261-1285.

Wang, Z., Wang, S., Farinella, M., Murray-Rust, D., Henry Riche, N. and Bach, B., 2019. Comparing effectiveness and engagement of data comics and infographics. Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 1-12.

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