Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A picture's worth a thousand words

When Aaron Shirley was hospitalized in Mississippi decades ago, his room was in the basement. The only way his kids could visit was to stand outside and talk to him through a window.

“It was difficult to explain to them why I was in the basement,” Shirley said in a film titled “The Power to Heal,” which was shown during yesterday’s late afternoon Film Festival session. That film, which detailed the horrendous racial segregation of the nation’s hospitals and how dedicated health care volunteers and civil rights activists pressed for change, was just one of the many offerings of this year’s film festival. Organized by the Health Communications Working Group of the Public Health Education and Health Promotion Section for 11 years running, the festival showcases some of the best in health communication work.

Storytelling is an effective technique used in many of the films. One film told the story of 35-year-old Roberto Garcia, who suffocated under the weight of palm fronds while trimming a palm tree in California. The film, dedicated to Garcia and his family, outlined safety measures to prevent future palm tree worker deaths and was used to promote worker safety during Workers’ Memorial Day. Another film, based on a true story, featured the story of a mother reunited with her 16-year-old daughter after 12 years. The child’s father had kidnapped her and taken her from Italy to the United States. The reunion was complex, to say the least.

From promoting dental hygiene among children to stories of pregnant moms and efforts to shed light on the danger of mercury poisoning, the films offered a fascinating look at health issues. One film showed the transformation of an apartment complex to a smoke-free living facility and how such moves not only benefit people’s health, but property owners’ bottom lines a well.

Gary Black, who has organized the film festival from it inception and has a passion for health communications, told session attendees that he hoped they would be inspired to make their own public health films. Some of those films are high budget and slickly produced, he noted, but some cost as little as $1,500 to make. He pointed out that Laura Styles, who produced the film on preventing palm tree worker fatalities, was sitting in the film festival audience just a few years ago when she became inspired to start producing films herself.

APHA Film Festival offerings are being shown today through 2 p.m. in MCC 207. Come see what all the buzz is about.

— D.C.

Above, "Preventing Palm Tree Trimmer Fatalities" from the California Department of Public Health

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