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Funding in Action Development Guide: NCCDPHP Success Stories Application, Version 6.0

Success stories are a powerful way to communicate your program’s achievements, get support from current and potential partners, decision makers, and funders, and contribute to the knowledge of what works in community health. The key to a good success story is in framing the message to reach your intended audience to communicate how well your program is working in your community.

Make it compelling

Compelling success stories are memorable, relatable, and inspiring. They touch readers at an emotional level and motivate them to take action. Good stories show change and paint a picture of how this change is making a positive difference in people’s lives. As you write your program’s success story, keep your audience in mind. Think about how to convey your story in a way that matters to your audience and inspires them to support your program’s efforts.

Make it clear

  • Keep paragraphs short. Use bullets to break up blocks of text and to highlight important points.
  • Avoid wordiness and use plain language.
  • Include references to data or publications cited.

Remember your audience

Identify your audience before you begin writing a success story. Recognize their interests, needs, and concerns. What do they care about? What achievements will be meaningful to them? Your audience can include:

  • Current and potential partners
  • Decision makers
  • Funders

The “Funding in Action” Approach to Public Health Storytelling

The Funding in Action sections are described in detail below.

Your Title and Subhead are the best-read elements on your page. Put your message where readers will see it. Your Title should be short and punchy, and your subhead should provide more detail. When read together they should sound like a Facebook post because that’s one of the ways they will be used.

The title should answer the question, “What is happening now as a result of your intervention?”

Does the title

  • Grab your readers’ attention?
  • Use an action verb to bring your story to life?
  • Use active voice (see examples below)?
  • Let your readers know what to expect from the story?

Your subhead should expand on the title, drawing readers into your story.

Does the subhead

  • Create a bridge between the title and the story?
  • Expand on the title, drawing readers into the story?
  • Present the most exciting and compelling information?

Strong Examples

Title: Springville Citizens Now Enjoy Smoke-free Parks
Subhead: Park Cleanup, Health Stats Convince Local Leaders to Change Policy

Weaker Examples

Title: Smoking Ban Passed for Local Parks.
Subhead: Local Parks Now Smoke Free.

All good stories contain a beginning, middle, and end. The Challenge section is the set-up, the “before” part of your story, telling your reader WHY you started this work.

The Challenge should answer the question, “What was the public health problem you sought to address?”

Does the Challenge

  • Describe the public health problem, and provide the state or local data source?
  • Specify the populations that were affected?
  • Use data and include the data source?

Strong Example

Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic in Connecticut. Twenty-six percent of children in the state have obesity, according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health. Even though lack of physical activity is a risk factor for obesity, schools in Connecticut are shortening or eliminating physical education classes, recess, and physical activity breaks in order to increase instructional time in math, English, and science in an attempt to improve standards-based test scores. However, substantial evidence shows that physical activity can help improve academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores, according to CDC’s 2010 report, The Association Between School Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance.

Weaker Example

Connecticut teachers are teaching to the test, and children are suffering. Increasing focus on math, English, and science neglects the need that children have for fresh air and exercise. Despite evidence that physical activity is important for young children, grades and standardized test scores continue to dominate priorities around how children’s time is spent in school.

The Approach is the middle of the story.

The Approach should answer the question, “What did you do to address the Challenge?”

  • Describe how your Approach “matches” the problem described in the Challenge section.
  • Name partners involved and who did what.
  • Be as specific as possible.

Does the Approach

  • Describe the intervention or activity that was implemented?
  • Describe the target audience? Detail the specific components of the intervention
    • WHERE and WHEN the activity took place and HOW it addressed the problem?
    • WHO was involved, including major partners?
    • WHAT innovative approaches and culturally tailored activities were used?

Strong Example

Food accessibility and affordability can influence what consumers eat. Through the Healthy Corner Store Initiative, The Food Trust trained community partners to help stores improve access to healthy foods and beverages. Stores authorized for the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as stores that are licensed tobacco retailers, received priority for participation. Participating store owners learned how to stock more healthy items and how to buy, handle, and store fresh produce. They received small monetary incentives for increasing their inventory of healthy items. Store owners received display materials to identify the store as a participant and to guide customers to healthier options.

Weaker Example

The coalition educated the city council on the serious tobacco problem in city parks. A public health education effort raised awareness of the impact of this issue through coordinated efforts to educate city leaders.

This is the ending of your story. The Results section should describe what happened as a result of the work you did.

Does the results section

  • Present key outcomes that demonstrate how the intervention or activity had an impact (e.g., how many people were reached, what practices/behaviors changed, how much money was saved, if any policies were changed or developed)?
  • Present key outcomes that demonstrate how the intervention or activity addressed the challenge
    • Quantify your results and outcomes?
    • Contextualize your data and discuss implications?

Should answer the question “What were the quantifiable results of your approach?”

  • Number of people or institutions affected or reached?
  • Changes in outcomes?
  • If outcomes are not yet available, you can provide intermediate outcomes, such as number of people trained to deliver an intervention.
  • This is the key section of the Success Story. To be included in CDC’s Success Stories Library, it needs to show a quantifiable outcome.

Strong Example

Over 150 stores in 10 cities are participating: Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, Erie, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Pittsburgh, Reading, State College, and Williamsport. During the first 4 years of the program, store owners collectively received 237 trainings to guide their adoption of a healthy retail environment. A review of data from a local survey 4 years later shows store participation led to healthy product additions from every food area assessed: more than 85% of stores added whole-grain products, 81% added fruits and vegetables, 63% added healthy protein sources, and 44% added low-fat dairy options. Many store owners are highly engaged, including one who approached the community partner to enroll three of his businesses. These changes in corner stores contribute to increased access to healthy food for 890,000 Pennsylvanians.

Weaker Example

School officials changed school policy to include more physical activity for elementary school children. Morning walks have been organized by several schools in the district. Data will be collected on comparative physical fitness tests from previous years against the current school year results. School children live fit due to the initiative’s efforts.

This is the summary or elevator speech about your program. If people don’t take the time to every section, they should get a good idea of the beginning, middle, and end of your story from the At A Glance.

The At A Glance should briefly summarize the Challenge and Approach, focusing mainly on the Results.

  • The reader should be able to understand the basics of your intervention from reading the At A Glance.
  • State the public health problem (Challenge) and what you did to address it (Approach) as briefly as possible. Don’t get bogged down in specifics (e.g., listing all partners). Focus on your most impressive results.

Strong Example

Residents of most low-income urban areas in Pennsylvania have limited access to healthy foods. The Pennsylvania Department of Health partnered with The Food Trust to train community partners how to work with store owners to stock and promote healthier food and beverages. Many store owners are highly engaged, including one who approached the community partner to enroll three of his businesses. Over 150 stores serving 890,000 residents in 10 of the most populated cities in Pennsylvania now offer healthier food and beverage options closer to where residents live.

Weaker Examples

As of May 2016, the Sullivan County Healthy Communities Coalition in Bristol, Tennessee, has completed its first park revitalization project. What was once a place that attracted illegal activity due to years of neglect has been transformed into a community destination for social and physical activity. This project was sponsored by the CDC 1416 High Obesity Grant.

Inclusion Criteria for the NCCDPHP Success Stories Library

The following criteria are used to evaluate stories for inclusion in the NCCDPHP Success Stories Library.

  1. Approach is population-based
  2. Approach addresses systems or environments
  3. Results are quantitative
  4. Story expands the public health evidence base
  5. Story clearly links to Challenge, Approach, and Results
Page last reviewed: September 24, 2020