Telling Great Stories in Healthcare – An event review by Chiamaka Nwachukwu

A typical health message from the WhatsApp broadcast grapevine

If you have never received a message like this, then it is very likely you do not have Nigerian relatives.
We live in a world where almost everything is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection. Hence, we have access to all the information in the world-the good, the useless and the downright harmful. This accessibility has come with new opportunities for those of us in the health space, as well as a whole new set of challenges that our medical training may not have completely prepared us for.

Social media is an important tool for anyone who wants to truly thrive in this new world, and even health care providers and advocates have to step up. There is a lot of incorrect and sometimes even harmful information floating about the sociosphere. It is up to those of us who have the right information to ensure that we nullify the effects of all the fallacies, especially as regards health. This is the reason I attended the Social Media Week Health Stories event organised by HelloCare, Doctoora and Digital Health Nigeria.

The event held at the Doctoora Health Hub in Surulere, Lagos and they had this excellent lineup of speakers.

Kemi is everything goals!
I had met him at the beginning, and had no idea who he was until the end of the event! Gosh!
She kept us delightfully engaged!
There were other speakers, but I wasn’t present at those sessions.

I got there super late unfortunately, so I missed the keynote speech by Dr Salako of Redcare HMO and the panel. However, I was still able to join the masterclass with Dr Chioma Nwakanma (Dr Zobo) and I learnt stuff that I felt I just had to write about.

1)Storytelling is a skill you need to master
Think about the guys in the bus that market those herbal medications that supposedly cure premature ejaculation, cancer, TB, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and liver failure. How do they talk about their products? They weave stories that no one can ignore. Then they tell these stories with passion and persuasion.

Most importantly, they tell their stories using scenarios that everyone listening to them can relate with. They have an understanding of their audience and know that Nigerians like “multi-purpose drugs”.They realise that people are moved when they feel like they can mentally connect with a person. So, they use all these to their advantage.

On the other hand think about a typical health talk. Think about the infographics or flyers in a language the people may or may not understand. Think about the medics struggling to ditch their jargon for simpler words, and sometimes failing woefully.

Think about the last time you were counselling a hypertensive patient on lifestyle modifications. Think about how you looked at him/her and knew your words were falling on deaf ears.

Why does it seem like we are losing so many patients to “quacks” who sell them harmful medication? Why is it that, many times, the average person would believe the man on the bus without a WAEC certificate, and completely ignore what the lofty consultant with fancy degrees has told them to do? If we, as health personnel with all our training, are given the opportunity to take over the talk from the man in the bus, would we hold our audience as captive as he did?

This was the masterclass I attended. Go Afro Woman! Haha

These are points she made to highlight why it is important for us in the health space to step up and start to tell health stories correctly. As much as we have the right information, we also need to present our information in the most relatable way possible. It is important that the message in health care is crafted with the audience in mind. The end game is not just to get the information out there. The end game is to package the information and serve it in such a way that it is understood and put into action by your listeners (or readers).

2) Mentors and networks.
Networks are important. Many times, a relationship you have with an influential person is what opens a door for you. Social media has made it a lot easier to connect with potential mentors and important connections.

However, because these VIPs are now supposedly a bit more accessible, they are inundated by numerous people who also want something from them. Hence, to be able to make meaningful connections, you might have to do a bit more than countless LinkedIn messages. She shared these two thoughts:

Giving over taking

This may not be achievable all the time, but it is something to always have in mind. It is easier to forge a relationship with someone when you are giving them help or offering a service. Look at their social media pages. Is there something they are trying to achieve? How can you help? Do you have any skills they might find useful? Can you offer your services? To effectively network or gain good connections, it helps to think more about what you can offer the person, and not so much about what you stand to gain.

Interviews
Interviews can help to break the ice with a potential mentor for example. You could organise an Instagram live session, a YouTube interview, or even a blog interview with someone who is an expert in the field you are interested in. It is a good way to forge a new connection with someone who is far ahead in your field.

This post does not in any way cover most of what was talked about to be honest. However, these I have mentioned resonated with me the most.

This sandwich tasted way better than it looks!

To wrap this up, I have to say that the food was an impressive component of the program. I really appreciated that it was very healthy! I think every health organisation should take a cue from Hellocare Nigeria and Doctoora. It is a bit hypocritical to talk about healthy habits, and then hand out sodas at the end of the event. Let’s practice what we preach!

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Chiamaka is a final year medical student of the University of Lagos, Nigeria and the immediate past editor-in-chief of its Association of Medical Students (AMSUL). She is interested in health management, health policy and public speaking. She reads a lot of random books and has an undying love for frozen yogurt. Her work can also be found on Medium