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Storyteller Shows Health Officials a New Way to Communicate with Alaskans

Anchorage Daily News (Anchorage, Alaska) , December 7, 2004


Internationally known storyteller Laura Simms spent a full day at the Alaska Public Health Summit last week teaching more than two dozen people how to tell stories and how to listen to them.

Dr. Brian Saylor, director of the Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies, said health problems may endure because public-health messages don't always engage the target audience.

"Health people can get very wordy, and sometimes we flip into jargon," he said. "Sometimes we're our own worst enemies, making things more complicated. Maybe if there were stories -- if that were the way to communicate these messages -- we'd be a little more effective."

A longtime Alaska nurse, Nancy Davis, the state's chief of public health nursing, said she learned that patients are telling their stories when they talk about themselves and what's important to them. "By listening to those stories," Davis said, "health workers can have a healing and therapeutic effect on patients."

Subjects Covered: business, healing, medicine

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