Storying Health Inequalities

In learning, stories hold immense power. People such as our amazing volunteers, who are willing to share their lived experience of exclusion, can be our best teachers. Our assumptions and prejudices are challenged. The stories help reduce stigma and allow us to walk some distance in the shoes of patients whose lives we often only have a small window upon.  

All the voices of the storying health equity project are genuine. Each participant has given informed written consent to the recording and sharing of their stories. 

Sam Smith describes his approach to gathering our stories

I have worked as an oral historian in health and social care and museum sectors for 15 years. Central to this has been my role coordinating an oral history service on a palliative care unit, conducting interviews with people with terminal illness. As part of this process, interviewees are given as much time as they need to share memories and stories they wish to leave for family and friends. This open questioning life story approach allows for a more autonomous narrative and dignifying experience than more closed, interviewer-led methods. Interviews are recorded to broadcast quality and, with consent, deposited as a public archival resource at the University of Sheffield.

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This open questioning life story approach allows for a more autonomous narrative and dignifying experience

I used this same life story approach for the Fairhealth storying health inequalities project. This proved an effective way to uncover richer, more in-depth insights into interviewees’ personal histories and social context. The stories I collected were from people from a diverse range of backgrounds faced with a variety of issues, including depression, drug dependency, bereavement, displacement and housing and work-related conditions. They are challenging but insightful narratives.  I was struck by how quickly events could lead to life-limiting outcomes and the lack of agency felt by many interviewees, underlined by the need for greater empathy and consideration from health care professionals and organisations.

Please do get in touch if you would like more information, to contribute, or to support us in gathering more stories.