Local researcher uses movies and flip books to share science behind COVID-19

She says words and pictures can increase knowledge on the issue
Posted at 6:00 AM, Jun 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-09 18:53:40-04

CINCINNATI — University of Cincinnati Professor Melinda Butsch Kovacic believes in the power of storytelling and images. That is why she has been working with her team to leverage both of those to develop COVID-19 stories that educate the community.

“I think in this culture we tell people what they should do and not why they should do it,” she explained. “With the COVID stuff, we have all these messages about what you should do, but if you don’t understand why you should do it, if you don’t understand the purpose of it, why would you do it?”

That’s why she goes beyond the facts. She works for We Engage 4 Health (WE4H), which aims to involve people of all ages in learning about health science in their own communities. Now, the group is including those people — whom she refers to as citizen scientists — in the creation of coronavirus-related stories. “We develop our stories with the community so it has relevance to them,” Butsch Kovacic said. “They give the back story, they give the characters their name, they choose what they look like… it helps them identify with the characters of the story and also the messages we talk about.”

Their website has several movies and flip books illustrating different topics, such as the science behind why you have to wash your hands for 20 seconds. She says those stories are more powerful than just telling somebody to wash their hands.

“When they don’t understand facts and we put it in the context of a story, they start to understand it,” she added. The movies, flip books and interactive activities have been on the website for a little over a month, and have drawn in more than 1,200 people to the site. She says they have also had doctor’s offices reach out to put their content in their workplace.

“We had hardly nobody visiting the site before that, so now there’s plenty of people,” she exclaimed. In addition, the City of Norwood reached out to WE4H to help train its community on becoming citizen scientists. You can be one, too. Just click here to go to their website.