Telling Stories that Promote Health Transformation

The following excerpt comes from the article by Pedja Stojicic published October 4, 2017 on ReThink Health.

Stories are an important part of the human experience. As we go about our days, we tell stories all the time. Yet when it comes to our professional lives, those of us leading change tend to forget the power of a good narrative. We assume that, if our strategy is good and we present compelling evidence, people will get on board. But I’ve learned that no matter how good you are at developing the strategy—even if you back it up with data—you will not be able to implement your plan if people are afraid or are not motivated to join you. To successfully motivate people, I’ve found that I need a different skill: the ability to tell a good story.

It is not accidental that traditions and cultures often are preserved through narrative and storytelling. Stories remind us who we are and what we believe, so we can navigate the complexities and uncertainties of life. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a purely rational decision; emotions often play a larger role than we think in informing our choices. Our emotions can help us see what we value in the world. We process every call for action or change through that emotional lens, and then we choose to act or not to act.

Public Narrative as a Skill

Communities leading transformation efforts can benefit from this insight, using stories to draw out emotions and motivate stakeholders. At ReThink Health, we have adapted a framework for change that centers on effective storytelling. Public Narrative has been used in many different arenas, from political campaigns to community activation, and in many different places in the world, from Japan and the Middle East to Latin America and the Balkans.

Developed by legendary community organizer and Harvard professor Marshall Ganz, Public Narrative provides a way of thinking through the stories needed to mobilize people for collective action. The framework supports the development of three stories—a Story of Self, Story of Us, and Story of Now—that are meant to shift sentiment from “we have to do this” or “we don’t want to do this” to “we want to do this and we believe we can.” Taken together, the three types of stories can help to build a compelling narrative that motivates change.

Health system transformation, in particular, can benefit from this approach because decades of false assumptions and misguided priorities have resulted in longstanding mistrust and real disagreement among stakeholders. For decades a common misperception has been that the best way to create healthier communities is to spend more money on health care. If only we had better hospitals or could afford more expensive care, this thinking goes, people would be healthier.

The evidence suggests, however, that to really improve health and well-being, we need to look not just at the health care system but at the entire health ecosystem, convincing organizations and communities to invest differently. To make this case, health leaders will need to think more broadly, embrace new tactics, and tap into emotions.

Read the full article.


Useful Resource: Pay It Forward: Guidance for Mentoring Junior Scholars

In September 2017, the Forum for Youth Development and the William T. Grant Foundation released an updated edition of Pay It Forward: Guidance for Mentoring Junior Scholars. Written for both mentors and mentees, the guidance covers four main themes:

  • Building and maintaining mentoring relationships
    • Develop explicit agreements
    • Create a comprehensive mentoring plan
    • Protecting mentoring time
    • Consider mentoring in group settings
  • Mentoring across difference
    • Acknowledge context
    • Encourage and broker additional mentoring relationships
    • Consider how race and identity influence career decisions
    • Develop your own cultural competency
  • Supporting career development
    • Broker access
    • Create a career development plan
    • Develop and review a skills inventory
    • Prepare your mentee to assume the role of colleague
    • Collaborate with your mentee
    • Discuss work-life balance
    • Develop effective task prioritization and time management
  • Managing conflict within mentoring relationships
    • Anticipate potential conflicts
    • Revisit underlying structures and agreements
    • Identify solutions
    • Seek outside help and support

Download Pay It Forward to learn more.

Useful Resource: Health Moments Radio Broadcast

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) offers weekly radio episodes providing tips on how to prevent and control diseases “that are important to the community and NIDDK’s mission. A minute in length, the Healthy Moments Radio Broadcast is hosted by Dr. Giffin P. Rodgers, the Director of NIDDK. Recent episodes include:

See the full list of episodes.

Useful Resources: CCTS Grant Library

The UAB Center for Clinical and Translational Science provides a web portal of best practice in grant writing samples. The goal is “to share the wisdom of [investigators] award-winning experiences in communicating about research in support of both scientific excellence and discovery.”  Samples include:

Visit the CCTS Grant Library to view other useful tools.

Six Ways to Successfully Lead Your Team

The following article by Alice Jackson is cross-posted from the University of South Alabama News.

It’s time to get twisted, because leadership is a mess these days.

That’s the advice of Dr. Craig Pearce, co-author of the new book “Twisted Leadership,” and the Ben May Distinguished Professor in the Mitchell College of Business at the University of South Alabama. Pearce and collaborator Dr. Charles C. Manz, the Nirenberg Chaired Professor of Business Leadership at the University of Massachusetts, are  receiving rave reviews for the book.  

Both authors, internationally recognized experts in the field of leadership, declare that the old-fashioned notion of centralized, top-down, hierarchical leadership, where “petty dictators” lord influence over subordinates, is a modern disease that fosters corruption, abuse of power and the waste of human talent. Instead, the duo prescribes a comprehensive cure to “twist the disease” out of the system and create new leadership synergies with the “Four ‘Ss’ of  Twisted Leadership” – Self-leadership, SuperLeadership, Shared Leadership and Socially Responsible Leadership.

Pearce says the book’s top points include:

  1. View Leadership as a Process: Most people think of leadership as something for people in positions of power to exercise over people below them. Leadership, however, is something that can, and should, involve everyone, rather than being assigned to one, or a few, fallible human beings. Most people are capable of leading some of the time, depending on their knowledge skills and abilities and the requirements of the task at hand.
  2. Emphasize the Importance of All Four ‘Ss’ of Twisted Leadership: Self-leadership, SuperLeadership, Shared Leadership and Socially Responsible Leadership form an intertwined, synergistic approach that offers the ability to optimize leadership potential. Individually, each of these four ‘Ss’ of twisted leadership are useful leadership tools. Together, they forge a comprehensive, resilient, sustainable approach to engaging the full talents of everyone.
  3. Build Self-leadership Capacity: We typically think of leadership as something that is directed at others. The reality, however, is that to effectively lead others we first need to be effective at leading ourselves. Effective self-leadership entails proactively choosing, not only what we do and how we do it, but also spending time thinking about why we do the things we do. This is the true core of effective leadership.
  4. Engage in SuperLeadership: SuperLeadership is the process of leading others to lead themselves. If leaders become too enamored with their own brilliance and feel compelled to be the source of all wisdom—and all decision making—they run the riskof becoming burned out, and underutilizing the leadership potential of others. With SuperLeadership, the emphasis is on discovering the hidden talents of all, enabling others to contribute their unique expertise and building the leadership pipeline.
  5. Unleash Shared Leadership: Shared leadership is all about collaboration, except that it goes well beyond a group simply acquiescing to directives from some centralized authority. Shared leadership entails dynamically relying on multiple individuals for leadership and followership depending on the knowledge, skills and abilities of the individuals involved, as well as the unfolding requirements of the tasks at hand. Everyone can be an expert at least some of the time.
  6. Focus on Socially Responsible Leadership: We live in a fast-paced world. It is very easy to become distracted by short-term issues, financial and otherwise. Socially responsible leadership, however, requires focusing on higher-level values and ideals—the long-term reasons why we pursue particular paths. By emphasizing a long-term perspective focused on higher-level values and ideals, we enable people to be more fully engaged; we create a more foundational sense of belonging; we facilitate the ability for all to work toward the big picture; we create a sense of meaning and purpose. Simply put, socially responsible leadership is the life-blood of sustainable twisted leadership.

See the original post.

Useful Resource: “Health Equity Change Makers” Toolkit

The Office of Minority Health’s web port “Health Equity Change Makers” using stories to highlight the impact of health disparities and ways in which individuals and groups can make changes. The portal includes a toolkit “designed to provide ideas and resources for activities that you can do — at home, at work, and in the community– to help end health disparities and accelerate health equity.” The toolkit topics cover:

Visit the Health Equity Change Makers web portal to see the full toolkit.


Useful Resource: Plain Language Writing

In June, the Community First at Carleton University in Canada sponsored the webinar “Easy to Read, Easy to Use: How to Write about Your Work in Words Everyone Will Understand.” Designed for a beginner audience, the webinar covered:

  • What is plain language writing?
  • Why is it important?
  • How do I write in plain language?
  • Where can I find additional resources?

The webinar video and materials are currently available online. Downloadable resources include:

Useful Resources: Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases website offers several resources to help people develop strategies for preventing the development of Type 2 Diabetes. These include:


Pediatric Grand Rounds Focus on Diabetes

The following is cross-posted from the Med School Watercooler of the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.

Dr. Anne-Marie Kaulfers, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and a pediatric endocrinologist with USA Physicians Group, will present “Update on Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes/Obesity” for August’s pediatric grand rounds.

The event will take place Friday, Aug. 18, at 8 a.m. in the conference room on the first floor of the Strada Patient Care Center.

Dr. Kaulfers will explain the difference in labs regarding Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. She will also discuss new technologies that will soon be available for patients with diabetes and the new guidelines for obesity and pre-diabetes.

The event is open to faculty, staff, and students at USA. A light breakfast, coffee, and beverages will be provided. For additional information, contact Katie Catlin at

The Strada Patient Care Center is located at 1601 Center St. in Mobile.

Useful Resource: Behavioral Health Equity

The Office of Behavioral Health Equity of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides resources to address disparities related to mental health and/or substance use disorders in various populations. Available resources include: Data, Reports and Issue Briefs; SAMHSA Programs and Initiatives; SAMHSA Behavioral Health and In-Language Resources; and  Federal Initiatives and Resources. Items are organized by minority group:

Visit the Office of Behavioral Health Equity website to learn more.