I feel lucky living in an era in which I can easily find people with whom I share common interests and who also get excited about ideas that I have always found fascinating. That’s how I got to know about this project. It is not hard to see its value and potential for translating evidence (knowledge) to patients and practically anyone who wants to understand evidence and our work in Cochrane. In my opinion Cochrane infographics is a perfect opportunity to help achieve the knowledge-to-action process or the “knowledge translation cycle”, as it is also known. This project implies integrating the right amount of science, technology, and art, so what’s not to like?
With a few paragraphs I would like to illustrate some of my experiences with drafting infographics for communicating evidence.
I’ve always thought that one of the biggest challenges in healthcare is the adequate, ethically sound, responsible, and efficient communication of research evidence to consumers (patients, families, carers), policy-makers, and other stakeholders and decision-makers. Efforts like Cochrane training for consumers and Testing Treatments are just two examples that show how the public can and want to learn about how treatments work and how all kinds of interventions and diagnostic procedures are tested.
Visualization is a critical part of many learning processes involved in many daily life situations. Unfortunately we tend to forget the information we read, and also (and possibly worse) sometimes we tend to have erroneous perceptions about our own knowledge. We also suffer from cognitive biases such as illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing our ability to be much higher than is accurate. The anti-vaccination movement is a perfect example of this. It is deceptively easy to believe one has sufficient competence to gather all relevant information and synthesize it without letting one’s own biases affect the result. So I usually think of this not only as a problem of quantity but also of the quality of the knowledge being transmitted. What we have here with this blog is a good opportunity to give infographics a chance as an add-on for knowledge dissemination, so I decided to draft my first infographic.
DRAFTING MY INFOGRAPHIC
Although there is no unique guidance on this, in my opinion and in general terms it would be advisable to choose a topic that it is both relevant and newsworthy. What I mean is picking a “hot” topic currently discussed on the news, blogs, or one that in your opinion (or from the perspective of experts and other stakeholders) would require wider attention and adequate explanation to change things and reach better health outcomes.
I am a paediatrician, so on this occasion coming up with interesting subject matter was an easy choice. I decided to communicate to my peers and patients what is the evidence on the use of probiotics for the prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a condition that affects preterm babies’ bowels and can be potentially dangerous. I’ve been listening and reading about the use of probiotics for preventing this condition and saving lives so I decided it would be a good idea to recap the evidence in a user-friendly way. A recent Cochrane review was available so I directed my attention to what the review would say to a lay person about the condition (the “what” and “why”), the methods (the “how”), and results. This can easily be obtained from the plain language summary, which is basically a friendly summary explaining the condition and the results from the review. With an eye on what the reader should get out of it, I tried to complete the picture by making use of the summary of findings tables and the rest of the review to have a better understanding of the whole body of evidence.
One of the most important things to share is our confidence in the estimate (quality of the evidence) based on the GRADE assessment. This gives a sense of how confident we are that the research estimate we obtained is true. Also it is advisable to present absolute numbers using a pictographic representation with figures that are intuitive and easy to remember.
Putting the infographic together took about three hours of my time spread over several days (while sitting in the cafeteria, during a flight, or whilst having a coffee-break). I am a Mac user (no conflict of interest to declare) and my choice of tool for drafting infographics or designing figures for my Blog or other work is Keynote®. I’ve found this presentation software both powerful and flexible for those of us who cannot or will not go into the depths of designing using Adobe® Photoshop or other more professional tools. Please remember that this is only a draft! On Keynote you can throw in images in any format and it will grab them with ease and flexibility. You can use many types of fonts and tweaks with visually amazing results. I always use it for my presentations. You can even supercharge the software with other supplementary applications like Infographics®, which is an application with lots of pre-fabricated designs with which you can create your own. There are tons of other applications that you can find to practice your skills if you want, like visual.ly, Piktochart, easel.ly, among many others. However, none of these tools are actually compulsory. As many blog posts have already stated, a draft infographic draft can be easily created by using a pen and a piece of paper!
This is an exciting time as we can forget about committees and simply leverage the power of the crowd or hive mind to find and implement incremental improvements together. Now it is your chance to tell us what you think and what do you recommend. All comments and critique are more than welcome. Let’s do this together. Click the link below to open a pdf of my infographic.
Carlos Cuello (mucked about by Jani Ruotsalainen)