A story is “that one thing happens in consequence of another” (Davidson, 2017). A story consists of a beginning, middle, and ending or is crafted of three elements; plot, character, and moral (Davidson, 2017). Imagine you are immersed in reading an exciting book, where the story is building, and you eagerly read to see how it ends…but your dog gets a hold of your book and proceeds to chew up the last few pages…leaving you wondering how the story ends. Now let us apply that same scenario, sans dog, to development, implementation, and evaluation of a project or public health program. Likely a considerable amount of work, expertise, and time will have been spent on that program, only to not understand how the story ends.
As has been discussed in prior articles, a body of research supports the growing demand and need to utilize evidence is important to inform practice, including development, implementation, and evaluation of public health programs. However, it is also important to tell a story about the program, which is becoming a standard part for federal funding, highlighting how evidence was used to inform practice, program results, as well as successes that accompanied it. Sharing successes through a story is an important method to disseminate best practices and share what works in specific populations in order to support replication of the original model in other communities and/or populations.
In real life, don’t we as humans search out recommendations for projects, products, services, etc. before we sign on the dotted line? Thus, sharing successes helps strengthen public health practice and evidence, helping practitioners see what works and providing a guide for design, implementation, and evaluation of a program because it works. For example, County Health Rankings highlights scientific evidence that supports cell phone-based tobacco cessation interventions to increase quit rates and Text2Quit is one example how that evidence was applies, providing personalized text message cessation program to may increase quit rates (2018). This program can serve as model to develop similar programs because it works.
Disseminating program results and sharing successes can influence policy, educating policy-makers on the value of a program guided by evidence and put an issue to the top of a political agenda. In addition, according to the Rural Health Information Hub, sharing successes “can help rural community health programs to build relationships with project partners and funders, increase visibility, share best practices, and may attract new funding” (2018). Moreover, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials recognizes that “state and territorial health agencies can make an incredible impact in public health and health care integration by decoding the key elements for success that can then be shared with others to promote further integration, increase healthcare quality, decrease cost, and improve overall population health” (2013).
There are various methods for sharing successes and many resources available to support dissemination and identification of best practices. County Health Rankings & Roadmaps highlights “What Works for Health”, and The Community Guide shares “Stories from the Field” of successes programs informed by evidence, both of which invite story submissions. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Success Stories provides opportunities for sharing success stories through an application process. Story Banking is another strategy for sharing people’s stories and successes in a compelling way. Moreover, depending your audience, some methods of dissemination may include infographics, publishing program briefs, publishing findings in a journal, sharing information through social media, or presenting at local or national conferences. Developing a communication strategy can support success dissemination of a story.
Regardless of how the story is shared, make a point to share it. After all, why go to all of that work, only to keep it all to yourself. If population health is truly going to improve, knowledge is key!
1. Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. (2013). Public health and healthcare reintegration success stories. Retrieved from http://www.astho.org/Presidents-Challenge-2013/Stories/
2. County Health Ranking & Roadmaps. (2018). What works for health. Retrieved from http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/take-action-to-improve-health/what-works-for-health
3. Davidson, G. (2017, September). Storytelling and evidence-based policy: lessons from the grey literature. Palgrave Communications. Retrieved from 3:17093 |DOI: 10.1057/palcomms.2017.93
4. Rural Health Information Hub. (2018). Disseminating best practices. Retrieved from https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/toolkits/rural-toolkit/6/dissemination-methods