The Power of Storytelling: Digital Stories as a Health Promotion Tool in the Yakima Valley
Halter, Amy Kara
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Purpose: Digital storytelling is an emergent method in health promotion work for addressing health inequities through combining technology with the voices of members of vulnerable, often underrepresented populations. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) has combined efforts with Seattle community organizations to spread the reach of the digital storytelling project to the Yakima Valley. This is an evaluative study of the effectiveness of the digital storytelling process in the Yakima Valley. Following the creation of a number of digital stories, we collected one-on-one interviews to understand the impact of creating a digital story, and convened focus groups to better comprehend the power of watching a digital story. Methods: The FHCRC collaborated with Creative Narrations, an organization that specializes in multimedia support for nonprofit organizations. Creative Narrations conducted a "Train-the-Trainer" workshop to train FHCRC community health workers who in turn conducted three community workshops in the Yakima Valley region. A total of eighteen digital stories were created through these workshops, nine of which were created during the Train-theTrainer workshop and nine others through subsequent community workshops. Recruitment was primarily through the snowball effect of targeted community outreach with flyers and word-of-mouth. Later we collected one-on-interviews (n=11) with participants of the digital story training workshops to evaluate the experience of creating a story. We also conducted focus groups (n=4) with groups who watched the digital stories in order to learn about the impact of viewing the digital stories of others. We reviewed and coded transcriptions from one-on-one interviews and focus groups using Atlas.ti. Results: Overall, participants found the digital story experience to be positive and beneficial for improving health and engaging others within their community. The common themes in the data demonstrate that storytelling is a uniquely valuable tool in health promotion work, and that there are healing benefits inherent to sharing personal stories of overcoming or managing health issues. As a community engagement tool, digital stories also provide a structure for disseminating health education and fostering relationships for further advocacy and health promotion programming. Conclusions: The findings of this study support other literature that shows the many benefits of digital stories in health promotion work. For storytellers, it provides a healing outlet to critically reflect on a difficult experience and find support and connection within one's own community. For story viewers, digital stories are far more impactful than other forms of health education materials that may not be culturally appropriate or accessible to the members of this population. Furthermore, the engagement process of building capacity and collaborating within a community is an important way for community organizations to foster relationships within the community. Many of our participants indicated that they would be very happy to continue digital storytelling work with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
- Health services