Mapping Opioid Use Disorder Patient Experience in Philadelphia

Students in the MS Health Communication Design elective, “Communicating Health Data,” collaborated with a team of Jefferson researchers, physicians and certified recovery specialists to develop a map that visualizes the patient experience navigating the opioid treatment landscape in Philadelphia. The project was made possible via a grant from Pew Charitable Trusts. Professor Renée Walker guided students Malachi Atkinson, Anushka Khurana, Shriya Patel, and Sarah Stern, with research assistance from Dhwani Trivedi, in an in-depth examination of the topic guided by insightful engagement from Jefferson subject matter experts including Dr. Megan Reed, Dr. Lara Weinstein, Dr. Erin Kelly, Jeffrey Gillingham, Tracy Esteves Camacho, Matt Mackley and Maribeth Kradel-Weitzel. The work focused on using information design principles to visualize treatment paths based on three distinct personas with unique journeys.

With the Pew team’s guidance, the students used design research methods to understand the complex social, cultural, and healthcare systems around Opioid use and treatment in Philadelphia. This research informed personas and scenarios that map in parallel tracks inspired by subway mapping techniques that make complex pathways navigable. Once a patient enters treatment, a vertical scale plots events and interactions that lead to recovery or reoccurrence. Throughout the map, illustrations that visualize the personas’ experiences and handwritten quotes bring forward the human perspective throughout the journey.

This collaboration is part of a larger project which aims to (1) produce foundational research that can fill knowledge gaps about the current treatment system, and (2) yield practical policy and practice recommendations to inform efforts to address the opioids crisis and reduce overdose deaths in the City of Philadelphia. The collaboration with the MS Health Communication Design program will continue in Fall ’23 when MS Health Communication Design students will develop strategies to disseminate the project’s larger findings to external audiences.

Established in 1948, The Pew Charitable Trusts is a global nongovernmental organization that seeks to improve public policy, inform the public, and invigorate civic life. Pew partners with a diverse range of donors, public and private organizations, and concerned citizens who share its commitment to practical, fact-based solutions and goal-driven investments to improve society.  Pew has offices in Philadelphia, Washington DC, Brussels, and London.


Maribeth Kradel-Weitzel

Maribeth Kradel-Weitzel is an assistant provost, associate professor and founding director of the Master of Science in Health Communication Design program at Thomas Jefferson University […]

Renee Walker

Renee graduated from California College of the Arts with an interdisciplinary MFA in Design. Walker has experience working in all aspects of communication design from traditional […]

Add comment