Dr. Emma K. Tsui, a professor at the CUNY School of Public Health, and a colleague, studied oral history and digital storytelling in public health research and practice. The findings were published in the journal Public Health.
[Photo: Dr. Emma K. Tsui]
Oral history and digital storytelling have been used in a range of ways in public health, including educating populations about health-protecting practices, advocating for improved clinical care and reflecting on public health efforts to combat infectious disease. Rarely are these methods recognized for their potential to contribute to public health research and practice. The aim of this research team was to assess how oral history and digital storytelling have been used in the health fields and to provide examples of ways that these methods have contributed to work in several domains of public health.
The research team 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. They then conducted a thematic analysis to create a typology of article topics and to examine cross-cutting themes.
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.
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 learn from the experiences of communities affected by public health problems.