The UF Center for Arts in Medicine, in collaboration with the UF Interdisciplinary Ebola Response Team, is currently developing a Framework for Using the Arts for Health Communication. The evidence-based framework is a practical tool designed to guide public health professionals in using the arts for efficient and effective health communication. The framework comprises a theoretical basis for using the arts for health communication, systematic review findings and references, and tools for program planning, engaging artists, and undertaking and assessing arts-based messaging campaigns.
The framework is based on a set of key findings from studies undertaken by the Center for Arts in Medicine and focused on use of the arts in public health. The findings are derived from a systematic review of literature investigating use of the arts in public health in low-resource and low-literacy regions and studies undertaken, in partnership with Makerere University, in Uganda in 2014. These studies include in-depth interviews with public health leaders and artists working in public health. Our findings align with those of a major systematic review published recently by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which defines four key components of effective health messaging programs: 1) tailoring the message; 2) targeting messages to audience segments; 3) using narratives; and 4) framing messages.
Our findings define six key concepts that can guide effective use of the arts for small and large scale health messaging, and are guiding the development of our Framework for Using the Arts for Health Communication.
Recent University of Florida studies show that low-resource and low-literacy communities can rapidly assimilate correct Ebola-related health information through social learning, and that rapid dissemination of critical and actionable health information can be achieved through evidence-based and structured use of the arts.
Artists and the arts are under-utilized, culturally appropriate and available resources in Ebola affected areas. The arts have been shown to be an effective and efficient means for reaching large audiences in a way that can optimize emotional engagement, social learning, and motivation to change behaviors and cultural practices. The six key findings listed above can serve as recommendations for guiding the development of effective health communiation and messaging programs. By engaging multi-modal arts-inclusive health communication campaigns that utilize local and celebrity artists and mass media, public health teams in Ebola affected areas can hasten the spread of crucial health communication. Arts-based communication and messaging campaigns, along with other strategies, can mobilize and empower communities to stop the spread of Ebola.