In the United States, many people believe female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is not an issue. Western media have long focused on the notion that FGM/C occurs in “other countries,” with an emphasis on “African communities.” However, as the recent ruling on the case against Dawoodi Bohra doctors in Michigan for performing FGC on two minor girls demonstrates, FGC is both a global AND domestic issue, affecting communities outside AND within the United States. Within the United States, the CDC estimates that half a million women and girls are at risk of undergoing FGC. Sahiyo United Against Female Genital Cutting understands that FGM/C continues because it is viewed as an acceptable social norm, and works to build a cadre of women’s willing to speak out against the practice, as a way of supporting communities in advocating to end the practice.
To date, more than two billion people worldwide have been infected with hepatitis B. The Hepatitis B Foundation, which works to improve the lives of people living with hepatitis B recognizes that directly engaging community members in speaking out about obstacles to testing, prevention, and care is essential to reducing the stigma associated with the virus, encouraging screening, and improving services.
The Women’s Foundation of California’s Women’s Policy Institute (WPI) is striving to increase the number of women and trans people who are actively engaged in public policy so that they can have a greater impact on the fundamental conditions that affect their lives, families, and communities. The WPI understands that storytelling forms an important part of the process of amplifying the voices of historically marginalized groups during the policymaking process, galvanizing community support for particular policies, and raising the awareness and consciousness of legislators as well as potential allies and supporters.
Public health practitioners are increasingly focused on the critical need to address the relationship between climate change and health. Leading the way on statewide efforts to build community resiliency for mitigating these impacts is the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), which in the fall of 2016 released a Climate and Health Resilience Plan. Among a range of actions outlined in the plan is the use of storytelling methods to engage local community members in learning about and responding to climate change.
At StoryCenter, we've heard time and time again from public health professionals of the need to put the "public" back into public health, and while many talk about community engagement, they're still seeking successful and viable ways to put it into practice. This is what the Rocky Mountain Public Health Training Center (RMPH-TC) said to us when they initiated a partnership to bring StoryCenter's storytelling webinars and workshops to public health professionals across the Rocky Mountain region.
Project Re•Vision aims to help disabled people share their experiences with healthcare providers and policymakers, in hopes of eliminating stereotypes, increasing understanding, and improving care and policy. “There’s a lot of evidence that people with disabilities are invalidated, and their healthcare is poorer than those without disabilities," states Project Re•Vision Director Dr. Carla Rice. “If we can bring a disability studies lens to care and begin to get providers– from doctors onward– to see disability as another identity category, as opposed to a biomedical or individual problem, that’s going to go a long way to improve healthcare interactions.”
While significant gains have been made in raising awareness about the challenges faced by LGBTQ-identified young people in navigating familial and community stigma and accessing queer-friendly health and mental health services, these youth continue to experience discrimination and misunderstanding in many mental health settings. The “Our Space” program of Sunny Hills Services (Hayward, CA) provides a safe environment for LGBTQ youth to talk about their difficulties and successes. Our Space also advocates with providers for improved service delivery.
Type II Diabetes is higher among immigrants and refugees in the United States than in the general population. Many immigrants and refugees do not receive the healthcare information that they need, about the disease. Healthy behavior changes, such as increased physical activity, dietary modifications, and medication adherence, are often challenging for immigrants and refugees to implement, due to language barriers, cultural norms that discourage seeking healthcare, and socio-economic barriers to accessing services. Low health literacy disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minority groups.
Recognizing that the globalized food system dominating food production and consumption in the United States is both unhealthy and unsustainable, committed activists around the country have for years now been exploring ways to create alternatives. The United States Department of Agriculture-funded Food Dignity project is a research, education, and extension effort bringing together five local organizations and three universities, to learn how to build healthy, sustainable food systems.
Graduate-level education in public health often involves professional field placements that test the knowledge of students within contexts and conditions of community and international settings. Reflection on field placements can become a critical part of the training process, for pre-professions. The stories of student successes and challenges in these placements assists in telling the story of an educational institution's own goals and accomplishments for preparing the public health leaders of tomorrow. The Fielding School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles, understands the importance of supporting its graduate students in sharing stories of how service placements have changed them, as people and as professionals.
Community Bridges in Central New Hampshire promotes opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to exert positive control over their lives. The organization focuses on supporting all members of the local community– those with developmental disabilities, and those without– in benefitting from caring, connected relationships. In the fall of 2014, Community Bridges reached out to StoryCenter, with a desire to explore how story sharing and storymaking can break down the stigma of disability and promote mutually helpful relationships.
The goal of the Banyan Tree Project (BTP) is to eliminate HIV stigma in Asian and Pacific Islander communities across the United States and its Pacific territories. The BTP's communications and community engagement campaign is led by the Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center in San Francisco (A&PIWC), and is funded by the Centers for Disease Control. At the heart of the project is a commitment to sharing stories about HIV that empower people with knowledge and inspire action.
In recent years, and in tandem with longstanding social justice organizing efforts, the broader public health community has begun to acknowledge and address the significant health impacts of mass incarceration. The Transitions Clinic Network, a model begun at San Francisco General Hospital, provides comprehensive health services to formerly incarcerated women and men. The Network is now expanding nationwide.
Nurses tend to practice behind pulled curtains, closed doors, and on their own, with one patient at a time. Shifts change, and the ritual of “report”– the passing on of objective and subjective information about patients, stands in for storytelling. Rarely is there an opportunity other than the sharing of tales of nightmarish patient encounters over drinks, for nurses to reflect on their practice. Nursing education does not prepare its practitioners to write or reflect, often squeezing out creativity and subjectivity. Without opportunities for reflection, nurses struggle to process the suffering and victories they experience with their patients.