Center for Arts in Medicine


What Anansi Did for Us: Storytelling’s Value in Equitably Exploring Public Health


There is growing implementation of storytelling as a specific application of narrative in public health. As the field’s latest epoch evolves to consider cultural determinants, reimagination of how scientists conceptualize, operationalize, and capture populations’ unique elements is necessary, and storytelling provides a genuine and efficacious methodology that can assist with that reimagination. Professionals are creating more spaces that demonstrate how storytelling elucidates, promotes, and supports contextual factors that are not captured by orthodox methodologies. However, more opportunities are needed to exhibit storytelling’s impact on capturing the nuances in human experiences, such as those of historically and systemically underrepresented populations. This study synthesizes the past decade of research in public health and related fields that primarily utilized storytelling and reports significant implications. Additionally, this study highlights explorations in public health that primarily use storytelling as a research and practice approach. Each case study includes a description of the background and aims, elaborates on storytelling’s utilization, and discusses findings, observations, and future directions. Finally, this study discusses conceptual issues in public health raised by use of storytelling, such as how to best capture impact on human beings and the importance of context. This article’s goal is to present current evidence of critical reevaluations to the epistemological, conceptual, and practical paradigms within public health through storytelling. Additionally, this article aims to provide support and empowerment to public health scientists considering creative approaches to better acknowledge and appreciate humanity’s inherent subjectivity.

Primary Investigator: David Fakunle, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Center for Arts in Medicine


  • David Thomas, MPH 
  • Kathy A.M. Gonzales, Ph.D.
  • Denise C. Vidot, Ph.D.
  • LaShaune P. Johnson, Ph.D.

Click here to access the article.

Funding Source: Kaiser Family Foundation; Midwest Sociological Society Research Grant Initiative

Photo Credit: David Fakunle performing, "The Medicine Show," a multi-modal performance bringing the stories of local social entrepreneurs to life through various art forms. This took place in August 2018 in Baltimore.

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