ASPPH logo


School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Yale: Storytelling and Public Health – The Power of Emotion in Science

As a pediatrician and writer for such hit TV shows as ER and Law & Order: SUV, Dr. Neal Baer used creative storytelling to share important public health information with hundreds of thousands of people. Dr. Baer mentioned that scientists know about 8 million metric tons of plastic are dumped into the world’s oceans annually creating a huge environmental problem and a life-threatening hazard to plants and marine animals. Yet, it wasn’t until people saw the story of a sea turtle with a single straw painfully wedged up its nose that a worldwide movement to ban plastic straws finally took hold.

Dr. Baer uses stories from his own experience as a pediatrician working in the Venice Family Clinic,as well as medical cases capturing national headlines, to convey important public health information to viewers. The award-winning shows have tackled such issues as gun violence as a public health concern, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among active health professionals, and whether parents who don’t vaccinate their children can be held culpable for the death of a stranger’s child, who succumbs to a virus like measles spread by their unvaccinated child.

Public health professionals can do the same thing, he said. One of the first steps in raising awareness of an issue is to identify your ‘affinity groups” — people and organizations that you think will be interested in the news you are seeking to share.

Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) Dean Sten H. Vermund the Yale School of Public Health is exploring the intersection of public health and the arts and humanities through an effort being coordinated by professor, Dr. Judith Lichtman, chairperson of the Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology.

YSPH alumnus Dr. James Hamblin, a writer and senior editor at The Atlantic magazine, helped lead the day’s discussion with Dr. Baer.