by Marion Nestle
Jun 10 2022

Weekend reading: Using comics to promote public health

Meredith Li-Vollmer.  Graphic Public Health.  Penn State University Press, 2022.

Probably because of my cartoon book, Eat, Drink, Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Food Politics, I was asked to do a blurb for this book, which I was happy to do.

In her thoroughly up-to-date, informative, and useful book, Li-Vollmer convincingly argues for the effectiveness of comics in conveying health risks and desired behaviors.  She proves this point with splendid and deeply engaging examples, and provides an instructive how-to for creating your own. This book should be in every public health curriculum; it’s not only informative but also wonderful fun to read.

They only used the sentence in bold face (edited to convert wonderful to wonderfully).

But the rest explains why I think the book is worth reading.   Li-Vollmer works for Seattle’s health department and discovered comics as a way of communicating public health messages.  The book includes lots of examples of the work of comic artists explaining issues related to a host of public health issues.  Although none of the examples focus specifically on food issues, some briefly cover food safety, eating watery foods on hot days, and how climate change affects food production.

I think this is a great way to communicate public health issues.  New York City subway rider that I am, I greatly enjoyed the AIDS story that the New York City Health Department told in posters in the early 1990s.  As the New York Times explained,

Our story so far, as seen in 6,000 New York City subway cars, above the windows and between the advertisements for hemorrhoid, hernia, and foot doctors:

Julio and Marisol run into each other while visiting Raul Rodriguez, who is in the hospital with AIDS. They apologize for the big quarrel several episodes back, when Julio refused to use a condom and walked out. Their romance rekindled, they leave Raul’s room to get some coffee and talk things over.

Suddenly, Rosa bursts in. “I’m scared,” she tells Raul. “I’m . . . I’m . . . I’m H.I.V. positive.”