Background/field: Creative writing, public health, and community activism.

Current research: What is the role of narrative in public health? Including:

  • What aspects of narrative matter in public health?
  • What makes a public health story true and how can you tell?
  • How do we fight cliché?
  • What’s the practical process of creating a public health narrative like?
  • What are the dangers along the way?

Definitions: Narrative is about connecting elements in a way that yields a meaning beyond the individual elements.

Hypotheses: Bad narratives rely too heavily on identification with obvious traits, and fail because they don’t transport. That is, identification depends on transportation, not the other way round.

Making the case: The case for narrative in medicine is perhaps even more easily made (everyone gets it when you mention doctors lacking empathy), but it’s easy for public health too: after all, describing other people’s unique lives in detail is what’s needed to put individual experiences into their wider public-health context, and it’s precisely what writers do. The case just needs to be made more often.

Wider relevance: This narrative approach changes not just how we create public-health interventions, but also how we teach public health and how we write academic papers.

Where next: ‘Perceived authenticity’ combines compelling with believable. What are its textual components?

Find out more:

  • Lise’s personal site is
  • Examples of her students’ public health narratives are at
  • Lise’s 2014 Medical Humanities article ‘“Only connect”: The case for public health humanities’ is here
  • And her 2017 blog post for Scientific American on storytelling and the search for truth, here


And thanks to Aussens@iter for the intro/outro music: 

Between Worlds (Instrumental) by Aussens@iter (c) copyright 2017.
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: (Smiling Cynic)