Public health works to promote healthy behavior and respond to health concerns for populations. Public health addresses health issues at a community level, rather than at the individual level, and focuses on prevention, rather than treatment. For example, public health programs might include developing vaccines, distributing condoms or health education campaigns.
We often think about the science involved in public health, but I believe art is equally important in this field. We must remember that art is present in all cultures, all communities, art is not something this is an “extra”, instead art is a universal trait of human culture. In providing public health programs to communities it only makes sense to incorporate art into services.
This video of a subway stairway designed to look like piano keys shows of how art shapes how we interact with our environment. This is also an excellent example of how art can be part of a public health program designed to promote healthy behavior (this was not a public health program).
There is limited research on the role of art in public health. A few graduate programs are incorporating this topic into curriculums. The University of Toronto Public health graduate program hosts an annual Art of Public Health conference.
Public health programs have a great opportunity to improve services by incorporating the arts into their work.
What other ways can art be used in public health? Share your ideas!
- The Intersection of Urban Planning, Art, and Public Health: The Sunnyside Piazza
- Culture and Art in Public Health
- Who Will Climb the Piano Stairs?