Johnson & Johnson and Deloitte launched Illustrate Change, a digital library of diverse medical illustrations, on Tuesday morning as part of an effort to reduce racial health disparities.

J&J and Deloitte unveiled Illustrate Change at the 2023 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. 

The project has enlisted Nigerian medical illustrator Chidiebere Ibe to improve representation in medical imagery among underrepresented racial and ethnic patient populations. As part of the kickoff, Illustrate Change is making 25 diverse medical illustrations available immediately. 

The idea was conceived as part of collaborative discussions between the Deloitte Health Equity Institute and J&J that were inspired by Ibe’s famous Black fetus-in womb illustration from 2021 as well as the growing recognition across the industry that medical illustrations lack diversity.

Both organizations cited contemporary research that found less than 5% of medical images show dark skin, while 8% of medical illustrators identify as people of color.

Ibe, who will serve as chief medical illustrator of the project, said the launch marks a step forward toward a “more representative medical education system.”

“I’m proud my illustrations will play a vital role in continuing to raise awareness of gaps in the representation of medical images,” Ibe said in a statement. “Closing these gaps helps avoid implicit bias within healthcare settings and increases awareness of how conditions present on different skin tones, which could have very critical implications for health outcomes. I hope these images inspire future generations of medical illustrators.”

Illustrate Change is being supported in part by J&J’s $100 million Our Race to Health Equity initiative that is combating racial health disparities that plague the American care system. 

There have been several other companies who have also stepped up in recent months to support diversity in healthcare media and medical imagery.

Earlier this year, Real Chemistry, a 2023 MM+M Agency 100 honoree, announced a partnership with Pocstock, a Black-owned diversity stock photo platform, to create more culturally relevant and inclusive content for healthcare media. 

At the end of last year, Allergan Aesthetics launched the DREAM Initiative (Driving Racial Equity in Aesthetic Medicine), supported by a partnership with Skinbetter Science, to address systemic racism in the industry and make aesthetic products more inclusive for an increasingly diverse consumer base. The DREAM Initiative also partnered with Shutterstock to create a gallery of royalty-free images to broaden the idea of what beauty looks like.

In addition to the illustrations offered through Illustrate Change, J&J also teamed with the Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI) to sponsor the AMI Diversity Fellowship for 10 medical artists.