A Hospital That Saves Lives With Stories

Updated: Dec 13, 2021

Cooper Green Hospital patients

are primarily African-American. Their doctors are mostly white. The doctors ask, “Taking your meds?” and the patient replies, “Yep!” But the problem is, they aren’t. The African-American patients regularly lie to their white doctors. In the medical world, this is called “noncompliance,” a big problem. Andy Goodman says the distrust was “profound: the patients felt the doctors were experimenting on them, so they ignored their advice entirely.”

So, the hospital devised a study where 299 African-Americans, ages 18-80, diagnosed with hypertension, were split into two groups. Group one (the control group) was given a series of DVDs to watch that contained “Healthy Minute” segments from a local TV news program addressing a wide range of health issues.

However, the second group watched a series of DVDs with patients telling stories about how they were coping with the disease. Andy Goodman describes the storytellers as “sitting in an unadorned hospital room (complete with unflattering fluorescent lighting), talking straight to the camera.” He goes on to say that “to say the production value of the interview was low is to pay them a compliment.”

You guessed the result. The group that heard the low budget DVDs with patient stories showed “substantial and significant improvements in blood pressure.” The group that heard stories of other patients talking about their struggles, victories, and interactions with their doctors had significantly better results than those that didn’t.

The group that heard stories from other patients like themselves worked with their care-givers “significantly” better and saw much better results.

Think about it. They used stories to change their patients’ lives. They used stories to overcome the distrust between the white doctors and the African-American patients. They used stories to increase compliance.

They used the power of stories.

What might that mean for your nonprofit? The stories of your organization’s impact in the lives of your constituents AND your donors will do more for you than telling and retelling your statistics of success.

Instead of bragging about your new facility, tell a story of a life change from that facility.

Instead of talking about what you do, tell a story from a donor bragging about what you do.

Instead of just asking people to join your legacy program, tell stories from people talking about their motivation to join your program.

Instead of telling people what you have done, do a newsletter telling donors what they have done!

Instead of a website landing page with a picture of your building, draw us into the story of a happy constituent whose life has been changed by your organization.

Story is the currency of history.

Stories build powerful connections, bonds that build empathy and inspire curiosity.

Stories are the basic building blocks of community.

Be like Cooper Green Hospital. Tell stories and save lives.

Want more money? Tell better stories!

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