NACCHO Story Bank Misses the Target

by Rick Austin February 28, 2014 04:11 PM

I just spent some time browsing NACCHO’s “Stories From the Field,” and I’m simultaneously fascinated and confused. This standalone website is operated as a resource for NACCHO members, and it has some impressive fundamentals, as well as links to outside resources.


As I browsed the stories that have been submitted from NACCHO members, it became clear that this concept of storytelling as a public health information tool is a tough one to grasp.


The site introduces the concept of storytelling as an effective tool in “The Value of Stories,” and then walks the reader through the basics in “Storytelling 101.” NACCHO members who would like to try their hand at this unfamiliar discipline are even given a step-by-step template in “Tell Your Story.”


The sample stories that have been posted are wildly uneven, as you might expect from people who have a master’s degree in public health, not a master’s degree in creative writing. But many of the stories also betray a misunderstanding of who the story is for.  


As the site points out in “The Value of Stories,” we’re attempting to reach people on the street, communities, government officials, legislators. Our effectiveness as storytellers depends on personal impact, a recognizable face, a compelling tale of success, or adversity overcome. That’s a tough one to grasp if it’s not your background, and what we get on the “Stories From the Field” website is a lot of “insider baseball” about PIOs staffing the EOC, needs assessment, policy infrastructure, target populations, and plenty of acronyms (MCH, MRC, FEMA, CDC).


There is a review process before stories are posted, but I’m guessing that this entails evaluating the entry for appropriateness, not efficacy. Maybe it’s beyond the scope of this NACCHO tool, but it would be nice to see some of these stories wrestled into a form with more focus and impact.


Take a look at “Stories From the Field,” and tell me what you think in the comments.

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