Advancing Public Narrative for Health Equity and Social Justice

Jan 01, 2018
  • Description

Public health practitioners contribute to health equity every day. Given the pressures they face, motivating supportive public action by constituents requires a compelling, shared story that makes social injustice more visible. Such stories are related to a strategy for shifting public narratives. Public narratives refer to the shared systems of meaning in a culture (sometimes conflicting and invisible) manifested through stories, practices, myths, systems of representation, social rules, paintings, fiction, advertisements, museum displays,  performances, language, and symbols that surround us in making intelligible how society works, and theinterpretation of events.

Public narratives are central to reclaim public health's social justice legacy in at least two ways. The first includes creating closer ties between public health and social movements for economic and social equality, and the second by telling its story in ways that move both constituents and colleagues. Public narratives, as a form of power (and yet invisible), influence what is politically possible and build solidarity. Used in facilitated dialogue, the curriculum explores the relevance of public narratives, how and why they shape our sense of the future, and approaches to disrupt dominant narratives (see Chapter 2). The curriculum offers guidance to reclaim and revitalize an effective public narrative, based on principles of social justice.

Through hands-on activities, examples, exercises and questions, we offer methods to facilitate collective efforts to identify, interrogate, and counter dominant public narratives and the systems that support them, in all aspects of the culture in everyday life and public health practice. This includes learning to notice and question them, by drawing attention to organized networks of power which hinder actions toward narrative change.