Can a comic a day keep the doctor away? GP Ian Williams thinks so

In these uncertain economic times there seems to be a growing nostalgia for the more simple things in life. Home baking and dressmaking is on the rise and many families are anticipating a less commercialised festive get together. Although some of this return to basics is undoubtedly driven by economic imperatives, anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that this enforced trip down memory lane can be strangely comforting. 

Which might, in part, explain the increasing appeal that comics or graphic novels have for grown-ups as well as children. In this posting Dr Ian Williams explains how far from being “just for kids”, graphic novels can actually be good for everyone’s health. His posting not only makes interesting reading but also provides a handy excuse over the holiday season to Simpson’s fans around the world. 

One last thing: Ian Williams can, alas, accept no responsibility for any enjoyable moments or unanticipated sniggers experienced by visitors to the site. These are strictly unintentional. Remember, fellow professionals: this is work, not play.

Comic Books Good For Health ! 

Ian Williams, General Practitioner and GP Trainer, North Wales

It has long been held amongst those in the know that comics are “not just for kids”. Over the past decade this underrated  medium has begun to receive recognition and acclaim from literary critics, academics, and broadsheet reviewers. This renaissance is partly due to the rise in popularity of the graphic novel. In contrast to production line, genre based, mainstream comics, graphic novels are full length, square bound “serious” comic books, aimed at adults, usually written and illustrated by one person, thus encapsulating the style, narrative and subjective worldview of an individual. Often drawing on personal experience, the author builds a world into which the reader is drawn. Amongst the growing number of autobiographical works, titles dealing directly with the patient experience of illness or caring for others with an illness are to be found.

Thanks in part to the medical humanities movement increasing numbers of medical school tutors suggest students read classic literature or modern novels to gain insight into the human condition. Those same tutors rarely recommend graphic fiction. And yet comics and graphic novels have great and largely untapped potential: they can be used as an educational resource for health professionals both in their role as educators and in communicating health messages to patients and carers; they already play a valuable role in reflecting or changing lay cultural perceptions of medicine; they can facilitate an enhanced understanding of the experience of being ill, and of being a carer; and they can be used to initiate difficult and painful discussions about diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.

To help develop an academic base for this subject, and to encourage the sharing of ideas, I’ve set up a website.The website aims to introduce readers to key works in the medically-related comics medium and invites user comments after every review. There’s also a general discussion page. Enjoy!

 www.graphicmedicine.org