gms | German Medical Science

GMS Journal for Medical Education

Gesellschaft für Medizinische Ausbildung (GMA)

ISSN 2366-5017

Global health – spread it with comics!

article comics for climate

  • corresponding author Andrea Praschinger - Medical University of Vienna, Teaching Center, Vienna, Austria
  • author Ruth Koblizek - Medical University of Vienna, Teaching Center, Vienna, Austria
  • author Ruth Kutalek - Medical University of Vienna, Center for Public Health, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Vienna, Austria
  • author Eva Katharina Masel - Medical University of Vienna, Department of Medicine I, Division of Palliative Medicine, Vienna, Austria

GMS J Med Educ 2023;40(3):Doc28

doi: 10.3205/zma001610, urn:nbn:de:0183-zma0016101

This is the English version of the article.
The German version can be found at:

Received: March 23, 2022
Revised: September 2, 2022
Accepted: November 23, 2022
Published: May 15, 2023

© 2023 Praschinger et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. See license information at


Aim: The topic of global health affects us all. In order to spread the word about this important medical field, a bilingual brochure containing medical comics on the subject was published at the Medical University of Vienna.

Method: Medical comics are well established internationally, have a long history in the communication of medical information, and – under the umbrella of graphic medicine – are both popular and widely used.

In the context of the exhibition project art-action-attitude/body, 6 panels were transformed into a 12-page brochure on the topic of global health in cooperation with an artist and a graphic designer.

Results: The brochure was made available for free to visitors of the exhibition, published online, handed out at various fairs by the artist, and presented at an international conference.

Summary: The collaboration with an artist and a graphic designer (Renate Mowlam, Bettina Jarosch) gave rise to a high-quality product that explains the subject matter clearly and in a way that is accessible to all, with the written word supported by images. In the brochure, 46 pictures shed light on the topics “health as a human right”, “global health” (definition and examples), and “one health” (definition and examples). This enabled readers to quickly become informed about this complex subject, to contemplate it, and to reflect on their own behavior.

Keywords: medical comics, teaching, global health, art, climate medicine


When it comes to communicating medical concepts, there are various strategies to choose from. The Medical University of Vienna opted for medical comics as a new didactic approach (see figure 1 [Fig. 1]). Medical comics are part of graphic medicine [], which is considered to be at the intersection of comics and health care [1]. Comics are published online or in print. There is a wide variety of material available for patients, relatives and loved ones, students, and medical personnel.

From a historical perspective, medical comics have been used for decades to share knowledge and to inform the population, as shown by an example about syphilis from the year 1949 [2]. Currently, there are numerous initiatives that seek to use comics in medical contexts, too. At the Charité in Berlin, Germany, an educational brochure using medical comics about cardiac catheterization was created [3], the effectiveness of which was later proven in a study [4]. Medical comics are also used as teaching materials for medical students [5]. One example of a text that imparts knowledge about diagnosing and treating an illness is a work on the blood disorder thalassemia [6], which has been translated into several languages.

Comics are considered visual rhetoric. At their heart is the expression of ideas through the medium of drawing, with drawings being supplemented by words, whether individually or in stand-alone sentences (see figure 2 [Fig. 2]). Comics make it easier to draw attention to the unspeakable and make it possible to gradually address complex and elusive topics. Comics also reach people who find reading challenging or face language barriers.

Global health revolves around the uneven distribution of health-care resources and its impact on both a collective and an individual level. The fundamental considerations associated with global health are grounded in the notion that health is a human right and no one should be denied access to optimum care. The associated rights represent essential information for everyone. Furthermore, the “one health” approach [7] takes into account the close connections between the health of people, animals, and the environment.

Description of the project

Aim of the current project was to provide adults with an introduction to the topic of global health and to design an appealing brochure. The workflow was divided into six steps:

developing a concept and compiling data/information: Prof. Dr. Ruth Kutalek, Public Health
briefing and coordination with the artist: Prof. Dr. Ruth Kutalek, Public Health, Renate Mowlam, artist
transforming the largely written data/information into drawings, and feedback from test readers: Renate Mowlam. Written and verbal feedback from members of various departments at the Teaching Center (8 people)
translation of the words/short sentences, adaptation of the drawings to the second language: translator (native English speaker)
handover to the graphic designer to design and finalize a print-ready file: Renate Mowlam, artist, Bettina Jarosch, graphic designer []
print and distribution, publication online

The content was divided into three overarching thematic areas:

health as a human right (definition)
global health (definition, health insurance, number of doctors, maternal mortality, practical examples: Ebola and COVID-19 vaccination)
one health (definition, examples: zoonoses, antibiotic resistance)

Results and discussion

In November 2021 a 12-page brochure (16 cm x 16.5 cm) was created containing 46 panels and stand-alone drawings (without frames). The collaboration with an artist and a graphic designer (Mowlam, Jarosch) gave rise to a high-quality product that describes the subject matter in a clear and accessible format supported by comics. This enabled readers to quickly become informed about the complex topic of global health, to contemplate and to reflect on their own behavior.

In order to ensure a broad readership, the publication was uploaded to the exhibition homepage [], was used in seminars run by the Center for Public Health, and was handed out at events (e.g., the Long Night of Research). The creation of two versions (German and English) supported this endeavor and helped to communicate the topic to a broader audience (including its presentation at the international 34th Annual Conference of the Association for Anthropology and Medicine [AGEM] in June 2022).

On account of the positive feedback and the large number of copies handed out (1,000 copies printed), the decision to further present content with the aid of medical comics in a printed format and outside of the classic literary form can be deemed very successful.


Our thanks to the Medical University of Vienna, especially the Teaching Center (head: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Anahit Anvari-Pirsch), for supporting the medical comics initiative []. Thanks also to the artist Renate Mowlam [] and the graphic designer Bettina Jarosch [].

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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