At HIP we’re lucky to have the opportunity to work with all kinds of people and places. Last year I worked with folks in rural Virginia on the health impacts of converting poultry litter into energy, while at the same time partnering with advocates in urban Southern California to evaluate the impact of redevelopment plans on housing costs. Usually the stakeholders we work with – government agencies, university staff, leaders from community and advocacy groups – are familiar with the ideas and terms in our materials. But we have less experience conducting in-depth Health Impact Assesssments with actual residents of communities who may have varying degrees of education and language fluency.
When we embarked on a new project with local community partners to analyze the health impacts of building a new football stadium in downtown Los Angeles, we planned to move forward using our typical set of materials. But as we met with residents, including some who spoke only Spanish, we realized we needed to do something to make the information more accessible.
During our first meeting, we started out by presenting Powerpoint slides filled with data. But in contrast to our typical trainings and workshops, we did not see a lot of head nodding – mostly just blank stares. We could quickly tell that the formal style of communication we are so comfortable with was not resonating with this audience.
So before the next meeting we worked hard to make our materials more accessible. The answer?
At the meeting residents attending the meeting formed three teams (one for Spanish speakers.) The teams were given 20 minutes to review a handout with data about existing health conditions in the community. Here are some examples of the information in the handouts.
Then we played Jeopardy! – just like on TV, but with categories related to the HIA.
Questions were all based on the information presented in the handout. The correct answers were shown after each round, points were tallied and the winning team got a prize. A complete set of the Jeopardy materials used in this exercise are available here.
The game was a great way to engage the residents and discuss some of the astonishing findings about how the local community has been changing over the past decade. From our community partners we also learned a lot about balancing our intensive agenda with energizing and light-hearted activities, and facilitating participatory processes to help reach consensus on things like HIA recommendations. We came away inspired to continue to think creatively about how we engage stakeholders in our HIAs.