Lifelines – how to use arts based research to help improve local health services

We’ve all been ill at some point in our lives and many of us may have called on the help of the NHS to help us through those difficult times.  Even if we’ve been lucky enough not to have to needed their help, we’re all too well aware these days of the importance of staying fit, keeping healthy and doing the right thing for our health and wellbeing for ourselves and our families.

But sometimes this is more difficult than it sounds. Sometimes the services  we need are difficult to access; sometimes it seems that health professionals aren’t listening to what we’re saying; sometimes we know more about our health than those professionals do and it can be frustrating for our experiences not to be heard and acted upon.

Lifelines was a  South Liverpool research project has a made a modest contribution to changing all that.  Working with artists from the Aspire Trust and health professionals from Liverpool Primary Care Trust, we ran an arts based research programme across South Liverpool which listened to residents’ experiences of  local health care services: and are now using those experiences to improve the health for future generations in the community.

We generated story telling, poetry and arts techniques  to  understand critical moments in the health experiences of South Liverpool residents. We produced into a book, audio recording and exhibition which toured South Liverpool and went onto the Bluecoat Arts Gallery in Liverpool, as well as a formal research technical report for the policy makers.

As well as some important findings which have been reported back to the PCT, GPs and other health professionals in the region, the project identified some important aspects of why arts based research is useful in health contexts: its non-invasiveness, its ability to generate responses from participants rather than interrogate – and its ability to co-construct data with research participants rather than mine it from their souls.

Author: drnicko

Awarded an MBE for services to arts-based businesses, I am passionate about generating inspiring, socially engaging, creative practice within educational contexts both nationally and internationally.

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