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  • Final Report Summary - HEALTHNAR (Narratives in health communication –a multi-disciplinary approach to strengthen understanding of the roles and uses of narratives in conveying health information and changing health behaviors)

Final Report Summary - HEALTHNAR (Narratives in health communication –a multi-disciplinary approach to strengthen understanding of the roles and uses of narratives in conveying health information and changing health behaviors)

Project No: 612675
Project Acronym: HealthNar
Project Full name: Narratives in health communication –a multi-disciplinary approach to strengthen understanding of the roles and uses of narratives in conveying health information and changing health behaviors
Project webpage:
Project coordinator: prof. dr. Enny Das, Radboud Universiteit, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Narratives in Health Communication [HealthNar]

The HealthNar project was a programme of coordinated trans-disciplinary exchanges between international scholars to advance theory and practice in the field of narrative health communications, and to initiate and nurture collaboration between researchers in the field.

The partners:
1. Radboud University (RU), Nijmegen, The Netherlands
2. University of Antwerp (UA), Belgium
3. University of Augsburg (UAu), Germany
4. University of Koblenz-Landau (UKL), Germany
5. University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, Australia
6. Edith Cowan University (ECU), Perth, Australia

From 2014-2017, 39 researchers from the partner institutions, including 16 PhD Students, working in the disciplines of health psychology, media psychology, health communication, arts, and interactive communication, worked together on the project. The project was funded by People Marie Curie Actions, as a part of the Seventh Framework Programme International, by means of the International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES).

HealthNar Objectives:
The overall objective of the project was to make significant contributions to building theory, research and practice of health-related communication by strengthening the emerging, multidisciplinary field of narrative communication science.

The specific aims of the project were:
1. The creation of an effective platform for researcher networking and profiling of the study of narrative communication.
2. Facilitating in-depth knowledge exchange and expertise enhancement amongst and between researchers from different disciplines, and
between junior and senior researchers.
3. Ensuring sustained multi-disciplinary collaboration between experts in narrative health communication through the promotion of co-authoring publications, undertaking collaborative research and developing joint grant applications.

Work programme:
The HealthNar Project was structured around five work packages. Five of the partner Universities assumed leadership and responsibility for one of the packages. UKL was the exception: it joined the HealthNar project soon after the start of the funding when the relevant international expert (Prof Dr Markus Appel) moved there from Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria.
Work Package one (led by Radboud University) was focused on the coordination of the project, and played a key administrative role. Work Packages two (University of New South Wales), three (University of Augsburg) and four (University of Antwerp) undertook work that addressed the key research questions of the project, through the exchange of knowledge and collaboration between researchers that the funding facilitated. Work package five (Edith Cowan University) was focused upon collating and synthesising the outcomes and achievements of the project as a whole and preparing material to support ongoing collaboration and the pursuit of new research opportunities

Researchers from the partner Universities and other external researchers participated and collaborated at 7 HealthNar Symposia which were hosted at the University of New South Wales (2014), University of Antwerpen (2015, 2017), University of Augsburg (2016), and Edith Cowan University (2016, 2016). In addition HealthNar partner researchers benefitted from international secondments, during which seminars (17), workshops (12) and expert meetings (more than 160) provided opportunities to exchange knowledge, build networks, and initiate collaborative research.

The work packages delivered the following outcomes.
1. Work Package 1 (Radboud) – planned, coordinated and monitored the programme of secondments over the three years of the programme, and administered the reporting of outcomes. Of the projected 67 months of secondments, 49,81 months were realised. While the total number of secondments was affected by personnel changes and other factors beyond the programme’s control, the project’s aims were realised, with 23 international experts, and 14 junior researchers (out of 16) being able to travel to partner institutions.
2. Work Package 2 (UNSW) – had a focus on health communication, with the aim of strengthening and extending research around the use of narratives in this context. Prominent lectures were embedded in the UNSW Centre for Social Research in Health public seminar series, attracting up to 40 interested HealthNar participants and external researchers, as well as policy-makers and practitioners in public health and health promotion. The public accessibility of seminars and symposia contributed to knowledge transfers with much potential to guide narrative health communication practice, and building the profile of the HealthNar project. Topics addressed included the use of narratives in the context of celebrity involvement in health communication, communication regarding unwanted sexual experiences, communication about cancer and treatment, workplace health communication, addressing behavioural determinants in health communication, and understanding alcohol use of women, and of elderly people.
3. Work Package 3 (Augsburg) - aimed to examine the processes that shape the success or failure of narratives in changing perceptions, attitudes, and behaviours in the health domain. Researchers collaborating in this work package found that both the authenticity of personal narratives of patients, and crafted, fictional narratives have important roles to play in relation to assisting patients and conveying health messages in different contexts. Research in the WP also considered that stories are not effective in the same way to all members of the audience, and examined the role of personal characteristics and also the impacts of cognitive and emotional processing in relation to the influence of a narrative. A new theoretical model, Preliminary Stories and Health Map, was developed which describes and explains preconditions of transportation and the mechanisms leading from story exposure to health outcomes.
4. Work Package 4 (Antwerp) – examined the intersections between health, technology and narratives with a focus was on (negative) online interactions with possible negative (mental) health outcomes, exploring the possible benefits of using qualitative, narrative methods to investigate these topics, such as: photo-elicitation techniques, design thinking processes (i.e. the Double Diamant method), graphic facilitation as a means to capture “group narratives” (generated through group discussions), and the analysis of narratives in online communities. In addition to collecting information about health behaviours through narrative methods in an online context, this work package also considered the role and efficacy of narratives in supporting evidence-based health interventions in this same virtual environment.
5. Work Package 5 (ECU) – drew together the successes and achievements of the HealthNar project as a whole through collating information gathered from each of the work packages and providing a synthesis of the project outcomes in the form of a final report to provide to the funding body.

The HealthNar project’s programme of secondments, symposia, seminars, workshops and collaborative research exchanges and resulting co-authored publications, has been highly successful in realising the aim of promoting beneficial researcher networking, knowledge exchange and international and interdisciplinary collaboration. Senior and junior researchers have shared their knowledge and established new links and connections across disciplines, and have advanced theoretical knowledge and expanded methodological possibilities for research and practice in the field of narrative health communication.
The new knowledge emerging from the HealthNar project delivers and develops methodological tools for understanding what narratives can tell us about the health behaviours of people. It helps to establish an evidence base for new strategies and practices in health communications utilising a narrative approach. Lastly, it assists in establishing the emerging field of narrative health communication, through the interlinked network of expertise and the body of work emerging from the HealthNar project.

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