Dr. Emma Tsui, an Assistant Professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH), and Dr. Amy Starecheski, co-director of Columbia University’s Oral History Masters Program, examined uses of oral history and digital storytelling that advance public health. The findings were published in the Royal Society for Public Health’s journal Public Health.
The authors conducted a narrative review of articles gathered from PubMed using the search terms ‘oral history’ and ‘digital storytelling’, which resulted in 102 articles relevant to public health. Their analysis of these articles indicates that oral history and digital storytelling have been used for both research and interventions in public health. Specifically, they have been used to 1) examine health risks and experiences; 2) engage and educate populations; 3) educate clinical professionals and organizations; and 4) inform public health practice.
“Though oral history has been practiced in the health sciences for a long time, digital storytelling—that is, the development of short, first-person video narratives—is a newer and increasingly popular method for both public health research and interventions. We enjoyed the chance to explore the many creative ways that public health researchers and practitioners have put these related methods, which both center the participant and her/his voice, to use,” said Dr. Tsui.
The authors conclude that despite the time, resources, and training required to do oral history and digital storytelling well, these methods have substantial potential for supplementing public health activities, allowing the field to glean additional lessons from its experiences, to educate its practitioners further, and to better learn from the experiences of communities affected by public health problems.