Scientists, Students, and Crowds: A Collaboration to Improve Health Literacy

Susan M. Abdel-Rahman, Nicole McClure Kurlbaum, Stan Fernald


Where language and literacy barriers exist, medical researchers continue to do a poor job of ensuring access to
clinical trials. Feedback from key stakeholders suggests that incorporating visual aids into the consent process can
facilitate enrollment of neglected populations. This study was initiated to examine whether a collaboration between a
teaching hospital and fine arts institution that introduced the topic of health literacy to student artists could be used to
generate medical research-related images. Crowdsourcing was used to examine the effectiveness of the illustrations
and provide students with feedback from a lay audience. Twenty-five student artists and 184 survey respondents
participated in this study. Combined positive ratings of “very” or “fairly” effective ranged from 5-91% while
negative ratings of “slightly” or “not” well ranged from 5-89%. Collaborations, as explored in this paper, can
promote minority awareness and provide a novel mechanism by which to communicate complex research-related
concepts to patients with limited literacy.

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