CGI U 2013 at Washington University in St. Louis

Design to Improve Health Literacy

Somalee Banerjee

Somalee Banerjee, fourth-year student at the School of Medicine and Sam Fox alumna

When it comes to prescription medications, you can’t follow directions that you can’t read.

Though drug companies are required to divulge certain types of information, there are no standards when it comes to how the information is visually organized. Large, undifferentiated blocks of text, reproduced in small, eye-straining type, is the rule of the day.

“There is a great need of easy-to-understand material to improve patient outcomes by empowering people to make their own decisions,” says Somalee Banerjee, a fourth year student at the Washington University School of Medicine and an alumna of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. This is especially true “for those with low literacy and high poverty levels.”

With “Design to Improve Health Literacy,” Banerjee is planning to organize an interdisciplinary class that will include both medical and design students. The aim is to develop new, image-based health education materials for patients in WUSTL’s Center for Outpatient Health, a resident-run clinic for low-income patients.

“Image-heavy communications have historically been used as an efficient mode of mass communication,” Banerjee says. Enabling the medical field to better deploy the skills and talents of graphic designers “would greatly benefit those with low literacy in America as well as populations abroad.”