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Understanding community information needs through stories

A guide for public health professionals, civil society organizations, and interested community members on how to analyze community stories to foster a healthier information environment


This guide was developed by Elisabeth Wilhelm as part of a fellowship project at the Information Futures Lab at the Brown University School of Public Health in 2022-23, based on an evaluation project of infodemic stories in collaboration with the Infodemic Management Team at the World Health Organization (WHO). Huy Tran and Tzion Jones of Brown University’s School of Public Health also made valuable contributions to the development of this guide. 

This guide would not have been possible without the longstanding partnership of Tim Nguyen, Tina Purnat, Sandra Machiri, and Sylvie Briand from the WHO Emergencies Team in Geneva. Additionally, we would like to thank all the storytellers who contributed to the original global WHO-led infodemic stories project in 2022 and participants in the story analysis focus groups in June 2023, all of whose experiences informed the development of this guide. We also thank Claire Wardle and Samantha Stanley from the Information Futures Lab for their leadership and support in this project, as well as editorial support from Lorraine Broertjes.

We would like to acknowledge the expert feedback from colleagues at Brown University, the WHO infodemic management community and partners who provided feedback on the draft guide:

  • Chrysafo Arvaniti, Médecins Sans Frontières 
  • Veronica E. Avalos Clerici, Department of Cardiac Thoracic Vascular Sciences and Public Health, University of Padua
  • Susana Barragan, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)
  • Christine Chan, Research and Evaluation — Lead, CanCOVID, University of Toronto
  • Sara Gorman, Critica
  • Marzieh Kouhestani
  • Renata E. Mares,
  • Kate McDowell, School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign
  • Benedetta Pelosi, PhD (c), GIANT 
  • Fran Penfold, Pea Comms
  • Anton Schneider
  • Silvia Sommariva, UNICEF
  • Amy Staley, New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medicine
  • Iris Thiele Isip-Tan, College of Medicine, University of the Philippines
  • Mary Thompson, PharmD
  • Dr. Paraclete Ugwu, Enugu State Primary Healthcare Development Agency
  • Isabel Valero Morales, National Institute of Public Health Mexico
  • Chris Voegeli, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Becky White, Curtin University

This guide is released on a Creative Commons license, specifically Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0). 

You are free to:

  • Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format.
  • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material.

Under the following terms:

  • Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate whether changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
  • NonCommercial — You may not use the material for commercial purposes.


What is in each chapter?

Chapter 1

😵‍💫 How noisy information environments affect health

Explore background on how the information environment can affect individuals, communities and society.
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Chapter 2

🧰 How to use this guide

An overview of how to use this guide by collecting stories and analyzing them with community members on a health topic, including how to tailor to your context.
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Chapter 3

🧭 Before getting started

Before beginning, gather the right resources and people to set up your project for success.
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Chapter 4

🏹 Planning and setting objectives

Hone in on the health topic, the community and timeline for your project, including a checklist for developing a project protocol
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Chapter 5

📘Story collection preparation

Make decisions on how you will collect stories and engage the community.
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Chapter 6

🧽 Story cleaning

Prepare stories for focus group discussions, including de-identification, text conversion, and assigning stories.
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Chapter 7

📣 Story analyst recruitment

Make decisions on how you will recruit participants for focus groups and how you will engage the community to find them.
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Chapter 8

📍Focus groups and story analysis

Step-by-step process of how to run a focus group discussion in different formats, discuss stories, and whittle down a pile of stories to 2-3 stories that best represent the changes a community has experienced.
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Chapter 9

🌈 Story insights and recommendations

Summarize discussions and themes across focus groups and draft a report.
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Chapter 10

💪 Sharing insights and promoting action

Sharing the story report and findings with partners and the community and identifying solutions and ways to take action.
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📦 Tools to help you use this guide

Templates, resources, links, and tips for developing and tailoring your project.
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