Melinda Butsch Kovacic, PhD, professor in CAHS, is the co-principal investigator of We Engage 4 Health (WE4H), funded by a National Institute of General Medical Sciences’ Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA). WE4H is an academic-community partnership between UC, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Miami University Center for Chemistry Education and Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses (SHNH) in Cincinnati’s West End neighborhood.
“Storytelling is an important communication tool,” says Butsch Kovacic. “Stories help people better understand and make sense of the world. Stories are important ways that we connect with audiences and can become critical tools in promoting and improving health, particularly in vulnerable populations where health disparities exist.”
WE4H regularly uses the power of stories to increase participants’ understanding of complex health concepts and offers fun and meaningful science activities to empower their participation in their community’s health. In face-to-face programming, WE4H employs storytelling to spur discussion and raise participants’ awareness of specific issues related to wellness and chronic disease, including how genetic predisposition, environment, nutrition and lifestyle impact health outcomes. Seung-Yeon Lee, PhD, associate professor in the CAHS Department of Rehabilitation, Exercise and Nutrition Sciences is a co-investigator and WE4H’s nutrition content area expert.
“Rather than a long list of dry facts, WE4H stories focus on three ‘big ideas’ introduced by the stories’ characters,” says Lee. “The stories include enough emotional detail so that program participants ages 10 through adulthood remember information better and more vividly. The goal is to not only increase their health and science knowledge related to each lesson, but also their self-efficacy or confidence in making positive health changes.”