When Fraser Health decided to launch a new initiative to tackle high rates of chronic disease among the second-largest South Asian population in Canada, they asked me to join their team to do an ongoing narrative analysis of the project.
As we started to work with the community, it quickly became clear that the planned, traditional approach of health promotion wasn’t going to work. It was designed to serve the medical professionals, administrators and infrastructure of a predominantly white, Western health system that only worked weekdays – not a diverse population disconnected from the mainstream by challenges related to poverty, food, culture, literacy, isolation and fear.
With support from leadership, we created a new, future story that inspired the launch of a patient-centred innovation lab for South Asian wellness. Our goal was to flip the system, by embedding a local South Asian team in the community to help change its stories – and its culture – to support healthy choices. Over the next three years, we used story tools like personas, journey maps, role play and improv to design future scenarios of what success could look like, then create culturally relevant programs to make it happen. Working with community partners, we ran campaigns through temples, workplaces, schools and grocery stores to help the population eat better, move more and enjoy life.
Though this kind of impact is notoriously hard to measure, our narrative evaluation showed that, after three years of work, the lab had:
– Reduced consumption of added sugar by up to 30%.
– Increased demand for health education and promotion by 45%.
– Engaged 45 community partners as collaborators.
– Increased service design and leadership capacity among lab team members.