SNAPSHOT: Promoting Health with Comics

CUNY researchers tested a web-based interactive comic book to improve healthy eating and reduce obesity among Latino and African-American children. Professor May May Leung, of the School of Urban Public Health at Hunter College, and fellow CUNY researchers published their study in the online journal JMIR Formative Research.

Dashboard screenshot from 'Intervention Inc' showing access to comics, trivia, and more supporting weight loss
Screenshot of ‘Intervention Inc’ dashboard

Innovative interventions are needed to capture the attention of children and teenagers, who are deeply immersed in technology. The researchers tapped into this interest as a potential way to engage children in health-related behavior.

The program they tested is a six-chapter manga-style comic with interactive features, such as sound effects, clickable pop-ups, and tailored messages to users. Manga is a unique form of narrative media that originated in Japanese comic books and graphic novels. It stimulates a reader’s attention by combining detailed visual images and text to create more of a subjective viewpoint of a story. When readers can identify with characters and storylines, they are more likely to buy into the messaging.

Screenshot from 'Intervention Inc' showing a sample comic promoting healthy eating
Screenshot of a comic promoting healthy eating

The study found that the kids were highly engaged in the program, but also identified changes that could be made to improve its usability. The feedback will be used to refine the tool for use in a future randomized study designed to curb childhood obesity risks in minority, low-income children.