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J R Soc Promot Health. 2006 May;126(3):128-33.

Establishing common ground in community-based arts in health.

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Centre for Arts and Humanities in Health and Medicine, University of Durham, Dawson Building, Science Site, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE.


This article originates in current research into community-based arts in health. Arts in health is now a diverse field of practice, and community-based arts in health interventions have extended the work beyond healthcare settings into public health. Examples of this work can now be found internationally in different health systems and cultural contexts. The paper argues that researchers need to understand the processes through which community-based arts in health projects evolve, and how they work holistically in their attempt to produce therapeutic and social benefits for both individuals and communities, and to connect with a cultural base in healthcare services themselves. A development model that might be adapted to assist in analysing this is the World Health Organisation Quality of Life Index (WHOQOL). Issues raised in the paper around community engagement, healthy choice and self-esteem are then illustrated in case examples of community-based arts in health practice in South Africa and England; namely the DramAide and Siyazama projects in KwaZulu-Natal, and Looking Well Healthy Living Centre in North Yorkshire. In South Africa there are arts and media projects attempting to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS through mass messaging, but they also recognize that they lack models of longer-term community engagement. Looking Well by contrast addresses health issues identified by the community itself in ways that are personal, empathic and domesticated. But there are also similarities among these projects in their aims to generate a range of social, educational and economic benefits within a community-health framework, and they are successfully regenerating traditional cultural forms to create public participation in health promotion. Process evaluation may provide a framework in which community-based arts in health projects, especially if they are networked together to share practice and thinking, can assess their ability to address health inequalities and focus better on health outcomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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