Health information tends to circulate so widely but so impersonally that it often blends into the background. For many public health target audiences, information and messages about illness and disease and exhortations to change risky behaviors quickly become white noise—a droning buzz in the background that only occasionally reaches consciousness. This information lacks what some experts call “authenticity”—not just perceived relevance but a felt relevance that pulls information out of the background and to the fore. Authenticity enables individuals to understand, emotionally as well as cognitively, how information relates to their everyday existence.
In contrast to more traditional approaches that passively instruct the audience (also called “instructive” learning) GHC activities construct contexts in which the learners’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes can be engaged and developed (also called “constructive” learning). Storytelling helps us do this in a specific and deeply personal way. Health information becomes relevant and feels authentic not when it is only factual or technically correct, but when it conforms to our sense of who we are and what we know now—when it feels like a real part of our lives.
In order to create authentic behavior change, GHC has identified the following as key components of a successful intervention:
1) Individuals attempting to change behavior have to see what change looks like. Stories allow participants to understand what transformation looks like by seeing characters’ detailed behavior change actions and mindsets
2) People have to be able to adapt knowledge of behavior change to their familial and social realities, values and norms, skills levels, and economic situation. GHC interventions are tailored to individuals' needs. By first narrowing the intervention to reflect the realities of a specific subpopulation, and then using the action phases to further adapt the stories to each member's circumstances, RAMP brings a powerful personalized dimension to public health.
3) Information has to connect with and address people's lived reality if it is to motivate behavior change.Through a dialogic process of engagement with participants, stories created with GHC’s tools are inherently authentic, meaningful and believable to the target population.
4) Behavior change interventions cannot be directed from afar; they require local know-how and this can only be accomplished if local personnel have tools at hand. GHC methodologies stimulate community involvement and offer a powerful improvement to conventional peer outreach programming. We provide a sophisticated framework that administrators, health educators, and community agents can tap into with minimal training.
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