The Personal Story as the Message: A New Approach to Health Communications


Health is a topic that affects everyone, either through their own personal experiences or those of their family, friends or work colleagues. Yet, for a long time, reporting health consisted largely of statistics on the number of deaths and cases of disease, or reporting on epidemiological data that affect people we do not know. While this is important for health officials, it is of little interest to audiences who demand information that is useful to their daily lives. Research has shown that if effectively used, the media can lessen fear and stigma which are the biggest obstacles to seeking information and treatment about diseases. Without doubt, the media play a vital role. The paper describes a recent pilot project in Western Australia that aims to fill some of these gaps by empowering people who live with HIV or who work for HIV organisations, to be proactive and share their own stories and experiences of HIV with the media. The project is entitled, Beyond the Red Ribbon: Improving HIV awareness through media education programs, and it is run by Edith Cowan University’s journalism department in collaboration with WA AIDS Council (WAAC) in Perth, Western Australia. The participants completed several media education and training sessions on how to communicate their personal HIV stories in the media. The paper evaluates the initial feedback and outcomes. This framework of community and media engagement that underpins the media training and education program has broader applicability for other health promotion and disease prevention initiatives beyond HIV.

Author Information
Trevor Cullen, Edith Cowan University, Australia

Paper Information
Conference: ECAH2015
Stream: Humanities - Media

This paper is part of the ECAH2015 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon