Stories provide rich information about people’s experiences of their health, health services and the health system. This is essential information for better decision making, for quality improvement and to guide health reform.
Stories are a cornerstone of good data
Most data gathered by and about health services are quantitative: numbers and statistics. But it’s increasingly recognised that qualitative data are equally important. Stories provide information distinct from that which can be gathered by commonly used methods such as experience or satisfaction surveys. It’s not that one kind of data is better than the other. Rather, stories complement quantitative data. Together stories and statistics provide a more complete picture of a situation. Qualitative information (like stories) can explain the “why” behind the numbers. For example, statistics show that some Australians – such as Indigenous people and those in low paid work - are at greater risk of poor health. People’s stories can help to explain why these inequalities persist, and what can be done to overcome them.
 Luxford, Karen (2012) ‘What does the Patient Know about Quality?’, International Journal of Quality Health Care 24 (5): 439-440
Gubhaju L, McNamara B, Banks E, Joshy G, Raphael B, Williamson A, Eades S. (2013) ‘The overall health and risk factor profile of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants from the 45 and up study’, BMC Public Health 13:661; Broom DH, D’Souza RM, Strazdins L, Butterworth P, Parslow R, Rodgers B (2006) ‘The lesser evil: bad jobs or unemployment? A survey of mid-aged Australians’, Social Science and Medicine 63, 575-586.
Victorian Department of Human Services (2005) Doing it with us not for us, Participation in your health service system 2006-2009: Victorian consumers, carers and the community working together with their health services and the Department of Human Services (Rural and Regional Health and Aged Care Services Division, Victorian Government Department of Human services, Melbourne); National Health Priority Action Council (2005) Framework for assessing the impact of new health initiatives and polices on consumers (Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing: Canberra)