Zika and the Olympic Games. An example of graphic journalism

In recent years – mainly thanks to the communicative dynamics of the web – drawings, graphs and visualizations have become a powerful way to spread news and information. Social networks are overflowed by memes and animated gifs, and several journals, both digital and paper, make use of infographic to depict concepts and information revealed by large amount of data.

Graphic journalism is one of the most interesting forms of word-and-pictures based communication. Born before the explosion of the World Wide Web, this approach to journalism has one of its main pioneers in the person of Joe Sacco, whose comic reportages on the Gulf War and the Middle East had great success since the early Nineties.

Using comics to tell non-fiction stories and cover real-life events is a powerful tool not only for journalists but for whoever has an interest in communicating grounded and reliable information. And that’s true also in the field of science and risk communication.

A sound example is Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse, a graphic novel published in 2011 by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which used the zombie metaphor to raise public awareness of emergency preparedness. A more recent and effective example is the one realized by Dania Puggioni, in collaboration with Housatonic, for Graphic news, an Italian website dedicated to graphic journalism (which also has an English version). On the occasion of the Olympic Games, Dania Puggioni realized a webcomic strip dedicated to the potential public health issue represented by Zika. The comic managed to provide some basic information on Zika but also to describe the debate raised by some experts, the complex position held by the WHO and the uncertainty of the situation.

Its visual efficacy, its easily shareable format and the reliability of its content made it a valuable implement for information and engagement in public health. Even if the event to which it refers is passed, this graphic news is still actual, since Paralympic Games are still ongoing. Most of all, such an approach represents an innovative example of risk communication that it would be worth using in similar context.

MMLAP and other EU Projects

Health system analysis to support capacity development in response to the threat of pandemic influenza in Asia
Making society an active participant in water adaptation to global change
Public Participation in Developing a Common Framework for Assessment and Management of Sustainable Innovation
Engaging all of Europe in shaping a desirable and sustainable future
Expect the unexpected and know how to respond
Driving innovation in crisis management for European resilience
Effective communication in outbreak management: development of an evidence-based tool for Europe
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Network for Communicable Disease Control in Southern Europe and Mediterranean Countries
Developing the framework for an epidemic forecast infrastructure
Strengthening of the national surveillance system for communicable diseases
Surveillance of vaccine preventable hepatitis
European monitoring of excess mortality for public health action
European network for highly infectious disease
Dedicated surveillance network for surveillance and control of vaccine preventable diseases in the EU
Modelling the spread of pandemic influenza and strategies for its containment and mitigation
Cost-effectiveness assessment of european influenza human pandemic alert and response strategies
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Addressing chronic diseases and healthy ageing across the life cycle
Medical ecosystem – personalized event-based surveillance
Studying the many and varied economic, social, legal and ethical aspects of the recent developments on the Internet, and their consequences for the individual and society at large
Get involved in the responsible marine research and innovation
Knowledge-based policy-making on issues involving science, technology and innovation, mainly based upon the practices in Parliamentary Technology Assessment
Assessment of the current pandemic preparedness and response tools, systems and practice at national, EU and global level in priority areas
Analysis of innovative public engagement tools and instruments for dynamic governance in the field of Science in Society
Public Engagement with Research And Research Engagement with Society
Computing Veracity – the Fourth Challenge of Big Data
Providing infrastructure, co-ordination and integration of existing clinical research networks on epidemics and pandemics
Promote vaccinations among migrant population in Europe
Creating mechanisms for effectively tackling the scientific and technology related challenges faced by society
Improve the quality of indoor air, keeping it free from radon
Improving respect of ethics principles and laws in research and innovation, in line with the evolution of technologies and societal concerns
Investigating how cities in the West securitise against global pandemics
Creating a structured dialogue and mutual learning with citizens and urban actors by setting up National Networks in 10 countries across Europe
Identifying how children can be change agents in the Science and Society relationship
Establishing an open dialogue between stakeholders concerning synthetic biology’s potential benefits and risks
Transparent communication in Epidemics: Learning Lessons from experience, delivering effective Messages, providing Evidence