Public Health

Conversation Guide

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Image of a nurse holding a heart

Most people would agree that a healthy population is a shared societal goal. With the global reach and impact of COVID-19, the policies, intentions, and concerns of public health officials (and the entire field) have been in the news and under scrutiny. Governments and communities around the world have scrambled to come up with policies that would support overall public health only to get backlash for doing too much or too little, being too late or too early. Mask mandates, closing businesses, and social distancing have evoked a spectrum of responses and frustrations from citizens. The role of public health is to take action to improve the health of populations and groups. What does it look like to prioritize the collective needs of the communities we live in while honoring individuals’ beliefs and the freedom to make our own health choices?

Background Information:

A gentle reminder that our guides are not intended to be a tool of persuasion or debate, but to try to understand where others are coming from. When we’re in persuasion mode, we may be tempted to make sweeping statements or cite statistics and other general facts. Our questions are designed to draw out personal experience and we encourage you to stay grounded in your own personal experience throughout the conversation. We recognize that in our current climate Public Health is most frequently associated with COVID and emotions are running high for a lot of people around this issue. Look through the guide and questions and check in with yourself around whether you can stick to personal stories and be curious about others. If you think it will be to difficult to avoid “persuasion mode” we have a lot of offerings for conversations around COVID. The Loss & Grief in the Time of Corona series might be a good fit if you are interested in exploring or talking through losses you have experienced during the time of COVID. If you are looking to dive into trust of individuals, institutions, or the media we recommend checking out the Trust guide.

Let's Get Started!

Living Room Conversations offers a simple, sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding and relationships. Typically, 4-6 people meet in person or by video call for about 90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of our nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating or convincing others, we take turns talking to share, learn, and be curious. No preparation is required, though background links with balanced views are available on some topic pages online. Anyone can host using these italicized instructions. Hosts also participate. 

Why We're Here (~10 min)

Each participant has 1 minute to introduce themselves.

Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.

Conversation Agreements:
How We'll Engage (~5 min)

These will set the tone of our conversation; participants may volunteer to take turns reading them aloud. (Click here for the full conversation agreements.)

  • Be curious and listen to understand.
  • Show respect and suspend judgment. 
  • Note any common ground as well as any differences. 
  • Be authentic and welcome that from others. 
  • Be purposeful and to the point. 
  • Own and guide the conversation. 

Question Rounds:
What We’ll Talk About

Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time has elapsed.

Round 1:
Getting to Know Each Other (~10 min)

Each participant can take 1-2 minutes to answer one of these questions:

  • What are your hopes and concerns for your family, community and/or the country?
  • What would your best friend say about who you are?
  • What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?

Round 2:

Public Health (~40 min)

One participant can volunteer to read the paragraph at the top of the web page.

Take ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption or crosstalk. After everyone has answered, the group may take a few minutes for clarifying or follow up questions/responses. Continue exploring additional questions as time allows..

  • Where do you get your approach to health from? (friends, family, doctors, social media, etc.)
  • What has been your experience with public health mandates during the pandemic? What did you appreciate? struggle with?
  • What informs your decision around vaccines? What do you wish others understood about your decision?
  • Public health involves trust on different levels– between members of the community, institutions, governments. When it comes to public health issues, who do you trust and why? Where do you find information to be better informed?
  • Acknowledging strong feelings surrounding vaccines, how can we bridge understanding? Is there a line you are unwilling to cross? Why or why not?
  • What is the right balance between the collective needs of the communities we live in and the freedom to make our own individual health choices?

Round 3:
Reflecting on the Conversation (~15 min)

Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:

  • What was most meaningful / valuable to you in this Living Room Conversation?
  • What learning, new understanding or common ground was found on the topic?
  • How has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group?
  • Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation?

Closing (~5 min)

  • Give us feedback! Find our feedback form here.
  • Donate! Make more of these possible; give here.
  • Join or host more conversations! With a) this group by exchanging your emails; b) others in person and/or by video call online. Get more involved or learn how to host here.

Thank You!