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Narratives in health communication – a multi-disciplinary approach to strengthen understanding of the roles and uses of narratives in conveying health information and changing health behaviours

International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES)

Narratives play an increasingly important role in (online) communication about health issues. News reporters not only report the cold facts about an upcoming epidemic, but also increasingly employ techniques that are used in novels and movies; serious games use interactive storytelling techniques to improve the health of children; health campaigns use celebrities and role models in order to convince a target audience to adopt healthy habits. In spite of their increasing use, relatively little is known about the effects of narratives in a health communication context, as expertise on narratives is scattered across different disciplines.

The objective of the HealthNar program is (1) to strengthen and consolidate the emerging field of narrative health communication and (2) to establish a flourishing and solid multidisciplinary research exchange network on narratives and health. The program does so by bringing together renowned international scholars from health psychology, media psychology, health communication, arts, and interactive communication. Activities in the HealthNar program include an electronic communication platform, secondments to partner institutes, the organization of workshops and seminars, joint grant applications, research projects, scientific papers, an edited volume, and a conference.

The work in the HealthNar project is organised in five Work Packages. The first work package concerns coordination and management. The second to fourth Work Packages focus on different aspects of narrative communication, intersecting different disciplinary perspectives and theoretical approaches. Knowledge and skills will be exchanged through seminars, workshops, scientific papers, and weekly meetings between visiting and hosting researchers during the secondments. The fifth Work Package is concerned with synthesizing the acquired knowledge into a new research framework that will be integrated into a research proposal and published in an edited book.

As part of this project, Associate Professor Trevor Cullen will present seminars on health narratives and health communication to research staff and students at Landau Koblenz University in Germany in June 2014. Both Prof Cullen and research staff at Landau University will then work on collaborative peer-reviewed research articles on health narratives for the Journal of Global Health and the International Journal of Public Health.


Associate Professor Trevor Cullen

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