Researchers at St. Louis University have been investigating whether topics as important as mammography, colorectal cancer risk reduction, and general cancer education can be improved with storytelling.
One of the challenges in healthcare today is to reduce what folks in public health call “disparities” – the tendency for African-Americans and other ethnic minorities to get sick more often, get less effective healthcare when they do get sick, and to be less knowledgeable about how to prevent illness.
So, the Center for Cultural Cancer Communication wanted to know what whether they could create more effective health communication. In an area of St. Louis that sees twice the expected number of late-stage breast cancers, they tried using storytelling.
It’s not just that the information was in the form of a story. They captured on videotape the stories of 80 African-American breast cancer. So the stories were real. They were personal. And they were in the women’s own language. They incorporated images, fact, and expressions of cultural norms and beliefs.
The results aren’t surprising to anyone who has tried stories as a way of sharing information:
When videos included stories, people were more engaged. In fact, the longer the video lasted, the stronger the effect of stories.
- Women who saw information about mammograms that included personal narratives were more likely to plan to get a mammogram themselves. And more of them actually did.
- 3 months later, they still remembered the key messages and still felt the emotions of the video: proud, inspired, sad and worried.
If stories can help increase the number of women who take the time to get mammograms by 50% (up from 54.5% to 75.6%), or double how many fruits and vegetables people eat (from 0.59 to 0.96 servings per day), just think what they can do for your user experience projects.
You can learn more about the Center for Cultural Cancer Communication, which was funded by the National Cancer Institute, at http://cancercontrol.cancer.gov/hcirb/ceccr/ceccrs_saintlouis.html.
Thanks to Cindy Lollar for telling me about this project.