Emergency-Ward 10, Angels, Casualty, In Therapy, ER: People love stories related to health
Medical, or in this case therapy, based story lines lend
themselves to drama and can also be educational
Stories underpin our lives
Story underpins much of our everyday life; the articles we read in magazines, the television series we watch, the adverts we hear on the radio, the songs we play in the car. They all often make use of story to entertain or persuade us. These examples are all from the commercial sector of course. Product placement in films and merchandising tie-ins with children's TV are other ways they also make use of story. Public health however often tends to rely on factual leaflets or dry talks. It was not always so. The Church after all had a similar role to health promotion with its messages around sex, child rearing, alcohol, diet, sloth etc. They knew the importance of parable.They illustrated their stories in plays, music, stained glass, Bible readings etc. i.e. through the popular culture of the time.
In many ways this website goes back to this tradition. In most of the different mediums covered such as music, books, computer games and even football, story has a part to play. Stories can engage people emotionally and intellectually by being both entertaining and relevant to their own lives. People can say 'Yes, that's me'. From that position, they may change their views or actions.
Stories can be used to give information, explore feelings and demonstrate new possibilities and skills. Social market research will tell you what is appropriate with particular target groups. Stories don't have be fiction either. Within political campaigning both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, among others, have told true stories within a narrative framework to great effect. The stories are usually aspirational.
Jeff Skoll of Ebay, got into business so that he could make enough money to one day become a writer of stories that would change the world. He made $5 billion from the sale of Ebay but instead went into movies. Participant Productions has made films that tell inspiring stories to promote social change, such as Fast Food Nation. Their most famous film however is Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.
Previously on Health Promotion: Building on good work
Health promotion has in the past used stories within trigger videos and theatre in education projects. There is then some tradition to build upon. If you decide to use story, as well as being clear of your aims, it is also important to have a clear understanding of both plot and character. Either commission a professional writer to help you with this or read page 49 of my full report on edutainment. This gives a quick explanation of the basics.
An example of a commissioned story is the work of The Rocket Science Group. They produced Leicester Kicks, a serial about teenage sexual health, for NHS Leicester City and put it on YouTube.
However alternatively you may want to consider using pre-existing stories if you work face to face with your target group. Postive Psychology At The Movies by Ryan M.Niemiec and Danny Wedding shows how to use films to help people become more emotionally healthy and resilient. They have also co-written a companion book called Movies And Mental Illness, as a teaching aid for students.
To download my whole 180 page report on using popular culture to tackle health inequalities click here
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