My mom often jokes that I could dance before I could walk. Though the passion to dance was with me from a young age, it wasn’t until I reached high school that I realized the emotional impact you could have on an audience just through movement. Whether it was trying to capture the raw emotions of losing a loved one or the weight of an important historical event, when words fell short, dance stepped in.
Storytelling exists in many forms—novels or essays, one-on-one sharing, spoken word poetry, graphic art, video, audio, data visualizations, dance, and so on. They help us make emotional connections to our audience, moving them out of their head and connecting to their heart. It’s no secret that health care is complex—from how insurance functions to the historical and systemic injustices that plague our health care system. So, the way we talk about health care is important. If we want an audience to engage, then it’s important that we present the information in a compelling way that’s also easy to understand and use. Storytelling is key to ensuring we are elevating the issues and voices that need to be heard.
At Center for Health Progress, we believe the only way to create an equitable health care system is to ensure that all voices are heard and considered in its design. That’s why storytelling has been such a core strategy of ours for many years. In 2010, we launched Colorado HealthStory in order to start new conversations about health. We traveled across the state, amplifying the important stories of Coloradans and their health experiences. In 2013, we released Health is Local. The project attempted to tell the story of health reform as it happened, filling the gap between when the Affordable Care Act was implemented and when there was good data available on its impact. This allowed communities to speak out on what was working for them and what wasn’t.
We’ve told the story of health disparities through infographics and recently released a graphic novel, Waiting for Health Equity, which puts a sharp lens on the historical policies and practices that impact our health today. During the first half of this year, we also connected immigrants to media outlets so they could give voice to their experiences with xenophobia, language barriers, and other barriers to good health. Storytelling will remain central as we continue to work toward health equity in Colorado. We have a long history fraught with injustice and systems steeped in oppression, and stories are how we will connect with our common humanity and find commonsense solutions to these complex challenges.
Though I don’t do much dancing anymore, it opened my eyes to the power of storytelling and the connections it can create between people. And, when it’s done authentically and with passion, we are able to see its true impact. At Center for Health Progress, we will keep working to elevate the voices that need to be heard, and we hope you’ll continue to be inspired to take action from what you learn. Because when our neighbors are healthy, our communities prosper, and Colorado is stronger.