A Call to Stop the Next Pandemic

Country/area: United States

Organisation: World Wildlife Fund

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 1 Jul 2020

Credit: Sara Thomas – Senior Director, Integrated Marketing & Activism / World Wildlife Fund, Maura McCarthy – Director of Digital Content / World Wildlife Fund, Lauren Malkani – Co-founder / Seven Mile Media, Nick Harbaugh – Co-founder / Seven Mile Media

Project description:

When COVID-19 first spread, few people understood it was a zoonotic disease, or a disease transmitted from animals to humans. “A Call to Stop the Next Pandemic” explores the rise of zoonotic diseases and their connection to deforestation, illegal wildlife trade and land conversion. Through an interactive article combining animation and infographics, the project explains the history of zoonotic diseases and how they are linked to human behavior, as well as how the increased risk of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 poses a threat to already marginalized people, including indigenous communities.

Impact reached:

“A Call to Stop The Next Pandemic” is the visual and interactive accompaniment to World Wildlife Fund’s ongoing pandemic campaign examining how human behavior has contributed to a sharp rise in emerging infectious diseases over the past forty years. The educational content is meant to distill complex data into a clear and interactive primer that explains the origins of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19, a topic that is not often discussed despite its historic significance to human health. To accomplish this, we used a combination of data-driven animation and interactive graphics that guide the user through a narrative experience that drills down into key human behaviors that led to an environment ripe for the development and transmission of zoonotic diseases.

The project has had a significant impact on zoonotic disease awareness in the general public and spurred tens of thousands of people to take action. To date, 42,328 people have sent over 130,000 messages to Congress. The animated explainer video has received over 130,000 views and has been translated by users into several languages, broadening the reach of the message. On social media, the content generated 21,204 likes, and over 2,000 shares and saves. Additionally several prominent celebrities shared the content including Jared Leto, Alyssa Milano, and Isabella Gomez, greatly expanding the content’s reach through their millions of followers.

Techniques/technologies used:

To accomplish the difficult task of communicating the complex connections between humans and zoonotic diseases, we used a number of digital tools and technologies weaved into a cohesive narrative on a dedicated page of worldwildlife.org. The reader is introduced to the concept of zoonotic diseases with a brief and engaging animated video created using Adobe After Effects which was repurposed for social media to promote the project.

As the reader continues through the article, engaging infographics and interactive modules provide a more hands-on deep dive into the subject. All of these tools are tied together using a unified design system led by a photo illustration that drives home the human connection to our natural world. The project was built in JavaScript, HTML5 and CSS3 using WWF’s proprietary content management system, allowing for modular blocks of interactive content which were easily updated on the backend as this quickly evolving situation developed. Additionally, to maximize accessibility and future-proof the design, the static data visualizations were built entirely with HTML5 and CSS3. The project was entirely responsive on mobile and tablet, ensuring that readers would get the full interactive experience on any device they were using.

What was the hardest part of this project?

As the pandemic spread throughout the world, the science team at World Wildlife Fund began researching how human behavior is linked to the rise in animal-borne infectious diseases. When COVID-19 hit the U.S., WWF was able to act quickly and use this research to educate our audiences. The biggest challenge was figuring out a way to simplify this exhaustively researched and highly technical report into plain language that anyone could understand.

There was an urgent desire to understand why this had happened and where COVID-19 came from. Seeing a need for immediate action, we produced this project in three weeks as a primer with the intention of rolling out additional content over the coming year as we curated ongoing research from the science team. By helping audiences understand the history and causes of zoonotic diseases, readers can better understand how they can be prevented.

What can others learn from this project?

One of the most valuable things that journalists and storytellers can learn is the ability to simplify the complexity of our modern world for a general audience. Bridging the gap between human behavior and the rise in zoonotic infectious diseases is a challenging but important requirement to help readers better understand our world and their personal responsibility in it. This is an essential task for journalism in the 21st century; not just to report on news events happening around the world, but to empower readers with the essential knowledge and understanding needed to be citizens of an increasingly complex world. This will require working directly with scientists and experts on the front lines of our most pressing issues and translating highly technical research for the general public using design and code to make it accessible and easy to understand.

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