The Art of Health is a Wellcome Trust funded initiative by The Health Research Unit Zimbabwe (THRU Zim), in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the Biomedical Research and Training Institute (BRTI). The Art of Health uses the creative arts (e.g. music, drama, art and dance) to effectively engage young people on matters pertaining to their health and well-being.
In 2020 the Art of health was piloted as a health-themed competition in three Provinces in Zimbabwe (Harare, Mashonaland East and Bulawayo). In 2021 it was packaged as a nation-wide competition which received 1,153 entries, and in 2022 it was showcased as a stage play and art exhibition.
THRU Zim aimed to establish innovative ways of engaging young people where their health was concerned. The Art of Health provides a platform for young people to freely express themselves on the health matters that mean the most to them. They are given the tools, resources and mentorship needed to produce health-themed projects, where all areas of health are explored including; mental, physical, emotional, social and financial well-being. Subjects specific to the region such as the influence of culture on a young person’s perception of health are also tackled.
This approach was used as we are aware of the importance of young people making informed decisions around their health. In the light of young peoples’ affinity towards the creative arts, we believed that packaging ‘health’ in music for example, would make the topic less daunting and more ‘cool’, ‘fun’ and ‘relatable’ for young people.
Pilot Competition (2020) and National Competition (2021)
In 2020 and 2021 the Art of Health was packaged as a health themed competition:
- Young people were given a platform to explore their health and wellbeing through music, dance, drama and art.
- Young people were asked to select health/ well-being topics of their choice that they wanted to explore
- They received mentorship to help craft their projects
- A small film crew was on hand to help music, dance and drama participants package their projects as short films and music videos
- These projects were then taken into communities around Zimbabwe and showcased to young people for further engagement
Stage Play and Art Exhibition
In 2022 the Art of Health was packaged as a stage play and art exhibition:
- Young people were given the opportunity to express their health needs through a stage play and Art exhibition
- The stage play titled ‘Taura’ which means ‘Speak Out’, highlighted young peoples’ thoughts on health in their communities and the importance of speaking out about it to effect change
- The stage plays and art exhibitions were showcased in Harare and Bulawayo for audiences comprised of young people, public health professionals, researchers and other decision makers
Materials from the project
ART | Explore the health-themed art pieces: https://www.artofhealthzim.com/art
FILM | View the health-themed short films: https://www.artofhealthzim.com/film
MUSIC | Listen to the health-themed music videos https://www.artofhealthzim.com/music
THEATRE | ‘TAURA’ the stage play: https://www.artofhealthzim.com/theatre
Evaluation and lessons learnt
- The creative arts are an effective method of engaging young people on health matters
- Our ability to engage as well as the enthusiasm with which young people were engaged increased significantly once health messaging was packaged in a creative way
- Young males who had previously been the most difficult to engage on health matters have been the most engaged since our inception. Male participation has been over 65% since 2020
- We learnt that young people would like to be given a platform to speak and they would like to be heard. If we listen to them we will soon realise that they possess many solutions to a majority of their health needs
- We also learnt that we need to keep striving to find innovative means of engaging young people and seek out collaborations as a way to broaden our reach
In 2021 the Art of Health collaborated with The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s Centre on Climate Change and Planetary Health and launched the Breathe In Competition which addressed air pollution in Zimbabwe. The Breathe In Competition was a national music and art competition that asked young people to assess the benefits that clean air could bring to the health and well-being of young people living in Zimbabwe.
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