In 2008-09, the Center for Arts in Medicine conducted research to identify practices in the use of the arts in healthcare and public health in East and Central Africa. The research yeilded clear recognition that Uganda holds unique leadership in the region in using the arts to promote health and health literacy. The Center's 2010 East-Central Africa Arts & Health Forum featured numerous Ugandan programs, and led to an ongoing partnership with Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.
In Uganda, the arts have a long history of being central to healing practices that fall under the realm of traditional healing. Uganda also has a unique history in using the arts in biomedical settings and in public health programs. While the majority of formal arts and health programs can be traced to origins in the 1980’s and 1990’s, some healthcare-based programs in Uganda began in the 1960’s, and the government has supported the use of the arts in public health since the 1950's.
Today, the Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts at Makerere University is leading an initiative, in partnership with the UF Center for Arts in Medicine, to professionalize arts in medicine and disseminiate best practices throughout East Africa. The Center for Arts in Medicine has partnered with Makerere University since 2012 in the following programs.
2012: Center for Arts in Medicine director, Jill Sonke, served as keynote speaker and trainer at the first Arts in Medicine Workshop at Makerere University. The workshop led to the development of a long-range plan for development of the discipline in Uganda, including training and professional development opportunities for artists.
2013: In July of 2013, seven people from Uganda attended the Arts in Medicine Summer Intensive at the University of Florida, including the Dean, the Chair of Visual Arts, and one faculty member from the Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts. The Center presented an exhibit of the work of reknowned Ugandan artist, Mathias Tusiime, at UF's University Gallery, and presented a series of lectures and workshops by Tusiime for UF students and Gainesville community members. In the fall of 2013, the Center partnered with Makerere University to present the 1st International Arts in Medicine Conference in at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, November 7-8, 2013. More than 100 people attended the conference.
2014: With funding support from the Warrington College of Business and Center for African Studies at UF, Jill Sonke travelled to Uganda to conduct research on the arts in public health with study co-investigator, Dr. Virginia Pesata and a team of UF undergraduate research assistants in partnership with Makerere University. The UF team partnered with faculty from Makerere University and four Ugandan research assistants to conduct three separate studies, including interviews with national and local public health leaders and artists who work in public health programs. This research was published and led to the development of a concept brief addressing how the arts can be used to help stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa, and an Evidence-based Framework for Using the Arts for Health Messaging.
In May of 2014, Makerere University and the Center for Arts in Medicine partnered to present the Arts in Medicine Training for Trainers Program. 30 participants were selected from over 100 applications to participate in the three-day training program.