Doctor hopes buttons worn by healthcare workers will encourage vaccination in Toronto shelters

An Ontario emergency doctor who has worked with homeless people in Toronto’s shelter system has found a new way to encourage vaccination against COVID-19.

This method is called the button project. This involves the wearing of cartoon-style buttons by healthcare workers in shelters to spark conversations about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. Bright orange buttons are pinned to clothing, especially scrubs.

The project is a collaboration between Dr. Shobana Ananth and the Health Design Studio at the Ontario College of Art and Design University.

Ananth, who works with Inner City Health Associates and is a clinical lecturer in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto, says the project produced two button designs. Each design has a QR code that, when scanned, links workers to a web page that answers questions about COVID-19 vaccines. The idea was to create a simple yet engaging message, she said.

“I thought, you know what, we should provide healthcare workers who are vaccinated with a way to talk about their lived experience to their peers and patients,” Ananth told CBC radio. Fresh air Saturday.

“What I thought, as simple as it sounds, is a button. The design of the button is very, very important. I really saw the intersection of design and medicine and caregiving. It’s a simple button with a QR code that the healthcare professional could use to connect to this frequently asked questions page. ”

On one button, a QR code appears above a heart shape made up of tiny versions of the virus, while on the other, a QR code appears next to a cartoon version of the novel coronavirus, with a bubble coming out with a spike in the virus and a question mark appearing in the bubble.

LISTEN | CBC host Jason D’Souza interviews Dr. Shobana Ananth and Kate Sellen of OCAD U about Project Button:

Fresh air14:05How design and better communication can help get more people immunized

The Button Project was initiated by Dr. Shobana Ananth, Emergency Physician and Kate Sellen, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in the Faculty of Design, OCAD University. 14:05

According to a survey at one site, 87 to 94 percent of healthcare workers who used the buttons said they had made a difference. They said the buttons served the purpose of starting a conversation between peers and customers. Workers said it helped them build their confidence in discussing vaccines and disclosing their vaccination status.

About 200 buttons are now in circulation, but more are in the works, she said.

According to a recent memo released by Toronto Public Health, only about 50 percent of homeless people in shelters are double vaccinated. This rate must increase, Ananth said.

The button design is “eye-catching” and “friendly,” says the teacher.

Kate Sellen, associate professor in the faculty of design and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Health Design at OCAD U, said the university’s Health Design Studio created the button design, which she said. described as “attractive” and “user-friendly”. The studio has worked on COVID-19 communications media for other projects, she said.

“Often the design is deceptively simple. And behind the button is a lot of information that we had to go through,” she said.

“With the reluctance to vaccinate, there’s a lot of fear, there’s a lot of misinformation. There can be a sort of feeling that this is a difficult subject to bring up. We wanted to make buttons really accessible.”

The orange color of the button is designed to stand out against the teal gray color of the scrubs. Feedback from the community led to the design of two buttons, she said. QR codes are built into the designs, she added.

“This invites questions in two ways: What is the button? And what is the QR code and what happens if I use the QR code? “

A young person receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up clinic in the Victoria Park subway station in Toronto on August 24, 2021. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

Sellen said there is room for improvement when it comes to communicating public health messages to address vaccine reluctance in Ontario.

Ananth, for her part, said she wanted the creations to be open to everyone.

“It’s pure graphics. It has no words. You don’t need to be literate. You don’t need to speak a particular language to get involved and ask questions.”

The Ontario government announced on Saturday that 21,614,205 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to date. Health Minister Christine Elliott said 85.7% of Ontarians aged 12 or older received at least one dose, while 80.1% received both doses.

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