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Why we need proof

One of the things that frustrates me when reading about global health issues is that they always seem to be negatively framed and reported on. In light of this, whenever I write and talk about HIV and AIDS, malaria, hygiene and other issues in different nations, I try to frame them in a more positive, yet accurate light. Thus I was delighted a few years ago at a conference when I sat in on a session showcasing several media projects that focused on global health stories. The one that stood out to me was The Living Proof project, which aims to tell positive, true success stories in global health. The project was originally conceived by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but has since been handed over to the ONE¬†Campaign. (The ONE Campaign’s website for the project is also quite a bit snazzier than the Gates Foundation’s was, so it seems they made the right choice.)¬†While this project isn’t new, I think it’s a wonderful example of health communication that I wanted to share.

One thing I like about the project is that the stories it tells often use different, less-heard of initiatives. And it does so using compelling, (fairly) short videos. For an example of what I’m talking about, watch the video below telling of how one woman in Tanzania farmed sweet potatoes to help her livelihood:

One thing I would like to see more of in these multimedia campaigns is talking about some of the challenges encountered when implementing the project, but showing that they can ultimately be overcome to make these success stories happen. I think it’s important to not focus on the negative, but also acknowledge barriers were present and they can be knocked down.

Living Proof also is another example of what we can do when we have money. The One Campaign and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are certainly not small players in global health (and likely public health in general), thus they have more resources and ability to market these health stories. But maybe we can try the same approach of positive storytelling with less funds.

What do you think of this project? And how might we tell other global, and public health success stories to a broad audience given limited means and funding?

The photo is not associated with the Living Proof project, but shows a global health initiative in Maroua, Cameroon of a woman farming salad to earn income and have greens in her city; Image courtesy Whitney Isenhower