April 19, 2014

Graphic storytelling gets patients to follow their RXs

Women in rural Cameroon took 90% of the pills they were prescribed after seeing illustrated instructions. Those who received only verbal instructions took just 78% of the pills they were supposed to take.

PICTURE THIS Comic strips like these help women in rural Cameroon comply with prescription instructions.

That’s according to a 1997 study by L.N. Ngoh and M.D. Shepherd.

For the study, the researchers gave instructions for taking their prescriptions to 78 nonliterate women in rural Cameroon:

  • Half of the subjects received verbal instructions only.
  • Half received the verbal instructions plus illustrations to take home showing when to take the medicines.

15% more compliant

Four days later, researchers visited the women’s homes and counted the remaining pills to see how well the patients had adhered to the instructions.

The patients who had the illustrated instructions had taken, on average, 90% of the pills they’d been prescribed. Those who’d received only the verbal instructions had taken only 78% of the prescribed pills. That’s an increase of 15%.

Think research on nonliterate women doesn’t pertain to you? You might reconsider: 14% of U.S. adults have ‘below basic’ literacy skills.

Communicate With Comics.

Ready to try graphic storytelling for your communications?

I’ve recently teamed up with Bill Wylie, former Marvel Comics illustrator, to help organizations tell their stories and sell their messages through graphic storytelling. Let me know if we can help you get your message across with a:

  • Comic strip
  • Comic story
  • Comic book
  • Graphic novel
  • Cartoon
  • Caricature
  • Storyboard

Bill and I look forward to working with you to bring the power of words + pictures to your next campaign or communication.

Check out our new website, CommunicatingWithComics.com, to learn more ways to move people to act with visual storytelling.


Sources: L.N. Ngoh and M.D. Shepherd, “Design development, and evaluation of visual aids for communicating prescription drug instructions to non-literate patients in rural Cameroon,” Patient Education Counsel, 1997; Vol. 31, pp. 245-61.

Peter S. Houts, Cecilia C. Doak, Leonard G. Doak, Matthew J. Loscalzo, “The Role of Pictures in Improving Health Communication: A Review of Research on Attention, Comprehension, Recall, and Adherence” (PDF), Patient Education and Counseling, Vol. 61, 2006, pp.173-190