A combined qualitative method for testing an interactive risk communication tool.
Descriptions of health risks in words, numbers, and graphics can all cause comprehension problems. Our novel risk communication tool involves a game-like interaction to allow users to experience the probability of a health event. The underlying principles are grounded in cognitive theory, but laboratory demonstrations do not guarantee usefulness in the real world. To help us create software on the basis of the theory, we have developed a qualitative method incorporating elements of focus groups and scenario-based usability testing in a community-based participatory research setting in Harlem, NY. In this procedure, a facilitator mediates discussion between software developers and community participants. Using this method, we have elicited guidance from focus groups and found that the interactive game appears to carry an emotional impact that static graphics do not. Additional testing is expected to help develop a useful risk communication tool and lead to richer understanding of lay models of health risk.