logo, @ClimateChangesHealthIf you’ve ever struggled with communicating about climate change, APHA has a new resource for you. “Making Climate Change Personal for Effective Communication” is a Center for Climate, Health and Equity workshop designed to help convey climate change information through engaging stories about personal health.

Communication research shows that talking about climate change as an abstract or insurmountable crisis that endangers polar bears and the environment does not inspire action at the personal or policy level. “Making Climate Change Personal” illustrates how stories about climate change’s impact on human health, and the solutions available to address it, can be a more effective advocacy tool. 

“People may struggle to articulate how climate change affects them personally, their families and their communities,” said Rachel McMonagle, APHA climate change program manager and workshop organizer and presenter. “Placing climate change in the context of health makes the crisis relevant to everyone — no matter what the politics.” 

Rachel McMonagle at lecternThe workshop previewed Jan. 9 at the NCSE 2020 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., drawing participants from science, education, government, policy, business and organizational sectors looking for ways to incorporate science into environmental decisionmaking — the conference theme.

“Whether you are speaking with colleagues or elected officials, there’s power in the personal voice,” Gabriella Witte, APHA’s senior manager of government relations said during the workshop. “Representatives and policymakers want to hear from their constituents. Personal stories give people a way to connect on issues that matter to them.”

As the parent of a child with asthma, Louise Dettman, APHA communications specialist and workshop presenter, has seen how the effects of climate change affect her family. As a performer, she shares this and other stories on local stages.

“There’s an art to storytelling that I had to learn,” she said, breaking down her story into elements that participants could use to create their own. “When told well, stories change lives. We all have a responsibility to share what we know, and what can be done, in a way that everyone can hear.” 

Workshop participants put the session tools to the test, working individually and in groups before sharing their stories for presenter feedback. The stories demonstrated how a relatable protagonist and an engaging narrative structure can hook the listener, take them on an emotional journey and offer a hopeful resolution that inspires action.

If you missed the new APHA workshop this time, you’ll have more chances to catch it soon. The center will present it again at the Preparedness Summit in Dallas on March 31-April 3 and at the NEHA 2020 Annual Educational Conference in New York City on July 13-16.

Photo above: APHA's Rachel McMonagle speaks at the January workshop. Photo by Louise Dettman