DENTON (UNT), Texas – A University of North Texas researcher is studying whether graphic novels can be used as a medium to improve health literacy among a variety of populations.
Sarah Evans, an assistant professor in the College of Information Department of Information Science, is working with diverse populations in North Texas libraries to study the understanding of health information by adults of various ages by both reading and then creating graphic novel pages.
“The graphic medicine format is such a growing movement. It's applied in so many different ways, and it's such a wonderful way for people to express their ideas,” Evans said.
Often, the only graphics in medicine are the smiley and frowny faces that the doctor uses to assess pain levels. Being able to express medical issues and concerns with something other than words can add to not only research, but also future understanding of treatment and side effects of diseases, Evans said.
“One of the recent graphic novels from France is called Parenthesis, and it's a young woman who had a brain tumor in her 20s,” Evans said. “There's visceral experiences that she could describe in her memoir, but her drawing the physical impact of the confusion is so much more poignant. It’s a great tool and we want to get other people's voices out there.”
Evans and Assistant Professor Joanna Davis-McElligatt in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Department of English will each be leading sessions with participants of the research. The first half of the study will be four weeks of reading graphic novel pages and discussing, followed by four weeks of allowing participants to create their own graphic novel pages.
"Librarians have always been concerned with helping people learn more about the world,” Evans said. “The most effective librarians are the ones that create connections with context.”
The research is part of UNT’s Center for Racial and Ethnic Equity in Health and Society (CREEHS), which seeks to increase the quality of life for all Texans and to foster an environment for economic growth and innovation by narrowing longstanding racial and ethnic gaps in healthcare.