Show and tell: Using storytelling in film for health policy change

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Who I am: Irini Albatini, executive director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

What I created: How I Live, an award-winning film that documents the realities and challenges of going through a cancer diagnosis as a child in various places in the world. I collaborated with Meghan Shea and Michael Rogers, film directors and co-founders at Persistent Productions.

Why it matters: Making this film allowed us to think of creative ways to engage the public and use storytelling as a tool to impact change in public health. In academia, we get too focused on publications, journal articles, and hard data to disseminate our research. Storytelling can complement research findings and mobilize change. For example, our film was used as an advocacy, awareness, policy change, and fundraising tool by organizations around the world, including the World Health Organization, improving the lives of children with cancer in low-resources settings. We are now measuring audience response to the film and documenting its impact on health systems, policies and healthcare teams.

What we learned: Cross-sector partnerships can drive change. As public health professionals, when we complement our scientific, academic, and clinical content with storytelling elements, we connect with our audiences more effectively and increase the likelihood of policy change.