SEPA 2022

We Engage 4 Health (WE4H) is a community health project with the goals to improve health and science knowledge in the Cincinnati metro area, increase citizens’ involvement in their own and their community’s health, and increase interest in health science and public health careers. The project features community co-designed graphic style stories for middle school through adult ages that focus on health science, research, and citizen science. An important experience for our high school and college interns is taking a lead in planning, co-creating, and testing new stories. WE4H stories are read out loud with participants taking the parts of characters to create engagement, ownership, and common ground for the discussions and activities that follow. The stories take various forms to meet outreach needs. Some stories are used by community advocates in discussions, such as the COVID-19 vaccination story “Take Your Best Shot.” Some stories are created as a series for multi-session outreach programs, such as Citizen Science RAP. Other stories are extremely short so they can be displayed as large panels in health fairs. Preliminary research results on the impact of graphic style stories on health and science learning and engagement versus other information modes are positive.

Community Engagement and Learning with Graphic-Style Health Science Stories

Community co-designed graphic style stories are the heart of the We Engage 4 Health (WE4H) program

  • Our focus is improving community health by increasing health and science literacy.
  • Stories are designed for upper elementary through adult ages.
  • Story topics focus on health science, research, and citizen science.

WE4H stories take various forms to meet outreach needs. Stories may be

  • Single stories used by community advocates in discussions.
  • A series of stories for RAP sessions (multi-session outreach programs).
  • Very brief stories displayed as large panels at health fairs. 

Stories are co-designed with WE4H team, community organizations, target audience members, and content experts. Co-design process includes

  • Identifying needs and views of the target audiences in relation to the story topic,
  • Developing and/or critiquing story plans and scripts, and
  • Critiquing stories in comic layout.

Stories and accompanying programs are evaluated with

  • Co-designer feedback survey + experience survey,
  • End-user story impact survey,
  • Pre/post knowledge, attitudes, and self-efficacy surveys, and
  • Focus groups and observational data.
The characters’ unconventional skin and hair are designed to represent a range of tones and textures without being limited to specific ethnicities. In this way, the characters are diverse yet relatable for people of all backgrounds.

We Engage 4 Health is supported by a National Institute of General Medical Sciences (#R25GM129808).” The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Project Team

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center/University of Cincinnati: Melinda Butsch Kovacic (Co-PI), Pat Ryan, Seung-Yeon Lee, Julie Wijesooriya, Jacinda Dariotis, Edie Morris, Lisa Martin, Lauren Bates, Erin Wagner, Jackie Humphries, Shereen Elshaer, Carmen Culotta, Keren Mabisi

Miami University Center for Chemistry Education:“Susan Hershberger (Co-PI), Susan Gertz

Interns: Eshika Kohli, Barbara Tyler, Hannah America, Abbigail Edwards, Kaela King, Aaron Lopez

Community Co-Designers and Organizational Partners: Sheila Nared, Luwana Pettus Oglesby, Vonnie Tawwab, Paula Sherman, The West End Community Research Advisory Board, Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses, Lick Run Greenway, Santa Maria Community Services, University of Cincinnati Cancer Center, Keep Norwood Cool, Cincinnati Department of Health, Norwood City Schools, Oyler School, Breakthrough Cincinnati

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Meet Big Sam

Big Sam is a 40-something security guard at the high school Jazzy and Vito attend. Big Sam is worried about his health and recently found out his blood pressure is high. He covers up his worries with jokes. He lives in the apartment above Miss Georgia.

Meet Jazzy

Jazzy is a cheerful younger high school age girl. She is a cheerleader and does gymnastics. She enjoys spending time with older people and loves to bake with Miss Georgia. She has asthma and works hard to control it so she can enjoy her activities.

Meet Cardi

Cardi is a 30-something aerobics teacher at the community center who loves to help people get more fit and healthy but can be a bit too much “in your face” about it. She means well though!

Meet Vito

Vito is a plays-it-cool older high schooler who is sweet-natured at heart. He plays basketball at the community center and is friends with Jazzy. He loves pop and chips and can’t see why eating all he wants of them is a problem.

Meet Pops

Pops is a retired high school science teacher who loves to keep helping people learn about science and health. He likes to check out what everyone is doing or talking about and step in to give his opinion.

Meet Miss Georgia

Miss Georgia is a fun-loving lady in her 50’s who loves to sing, dance, and bake. She is always helping out at community events. She recently found out she has diabetes, and she is learning new ways to cook.