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Creating Health and Wellbeing through Creative Endeavour(s)

A South-Coast Medical Sociology Study Group Event

5 February 2020 (1-4pm)
Room tbc

The BSA South-Coast Medical Sociology Study Group are delighted to announce the next regional symposium - a free series of talks on creative approaches to health and wellbeing.

Guest speakers

Cindy Brooks (University of Southampton)

Cindy Brooks is a Research Fellow and Medical Sociologist at the School of Health Sciences and at the NHS Wessex Academic Health Science Network (AHSN). Cindy’s research interests are combining sociological theory with qualitative and mixed methods research to explore and improve the experiences of patients, their families and health and social care professionals (click here for more on Cindy)*.

Cindy is involved in leading studies relating to polypharmacy, digital health and stroke. Other recent projects she has been involved in include Independent evaluations of Wessex Vanguard New Care Models [Dorset, Isle of Wight and North East Hampshire and Farnham].

Cindy also has a strong interest in developing research relating to the contribution of artistic and creative practices to improving health and wellbeing. This is shaped by her own observations as a mixed media artist who engages in local art activities.

Previous projects Cindy has been involved in include a mixed method research and evaluation study to improve the delivery of nutrition and hydration to people living with dementia in the community (funded by the Burdett Trust, Bournemouth University), as well as two studies to improve the experiences of cancer patients (funded by Macmillan and Dimbleby Cancer Care respectively, University of Southampton).

Louise Baxter (University College London)

Louise Baxter is a Research Associate in Mental Health in the Department of Behavioural Science and Health, University College London. She works as part of the MARCH mental health research network, focusing on barriers to community participation (click here for more on Louise)*.

In 2018, she completed her PhD at the University of Portsmouth, exploring the impact of poverty on wellbeing in pregnancy and early motherhood. Prior to this, she was a lecturer in the School of Health Sciences at Portsmouth, and has held research positions at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the University of Southampton.

Aristea Fotopoulou(University of Brighton)

Aristea Fotopoulou is recipient of a UKRI/AHRC Leadership Fellowship and Principle Lecturer in Media and Communications at the University of Brighton. She currently leads ART/DATA/HEALTH: Data as creative material for health and wellbeing (2019-2021), a research project that aims to help communities think about health and wellbeing through data science and art (click here for more on Aristea)*.

Aristea’s research focuses on social transformations that relate to digital media and data-driven technologies and she has published widely on critical issues of digital and emerging technologies from a feminist perspective, including the quantified self, wearable sensors and fitness tracking, citizen everyday data practices, digital media and activism, intersectionality and queer theory.

She is the author of ‘Feminist Data Studies: big data, critique and social justice” (forthcoming Sage,) and ‘Feminist activism and digital networks: Between Empowerment and Vulnerability’ (2017, Palgrave Macmillan/Springer). Aristea is currently the editor of the special of the special issues ‘Digital Culture meets data: critical perspectives’, in Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies with Helen Thornham (2020).


Speaker 1: Exploring the relationship between attendance of a local art activity upon participant perceptions of their health, wellbeing and identify.

Cindy Brooks (University of Southampton)

There is increasing recognition of the value of artistic and creative practices in enhancing health, wellbeing and quality of life. Yet the potential benefits of such practices is contingent to their availability, accessibility and the extent to which they engage and involve individuals in society.

To contribute to this discussion, this presentation reports early findings of a study exploring the relationships between regular attendance of a local art activity upon participation perceptions and experiences of their health, wellbeing and identity. Using participatory ethnographic methods, the study seeks to understand the psycho-social, economic and environmental factors which shape participation and engagement in art activity.

The principle researcher will also report on her reflections as both artist and attendee of the art activity, as well as researcher. It is anticipated that the study may provide relational, contextual and reflective insights; identifying the key features which contribute to the establishment and sustenance of the art activity locally. Additionally, findings from the study may provide a site for further comparative research of other local artistic and creative activities.

Speaker 2: Transforming our understanding of how social, cultural and community assets can support our mental health.

Dr Louise Baxter (University College London)

In 2018, the UKRI funded eight new research networks focussing on mental health, as part of the Cross-Council Mental Health Plus call to further research into this area.

The MARCH network focuses on social, cultural and community assets- which include the arts, culture, heritage sites, libraries, green space, community centres, social clubs and volunteer groups- and the role they play in enhancing public mental health and wellbeing, preventing mental illness and supporting those living with mental health conditions. There are an estimated 1 million of these assets in the UK. The MARCH network proposes that these Assets build Resilient Communities and therefore lie at the heart of Mental Health (M-ARC-H).

In the first year since the launch, the MARCH network has been leading a number of research activities in this field. Among these we have undertaken a consensus exercise to identify evidence gaps in the field, a Citizen Science project in conjunction with the BBC to understand the barriers and facilitators of creative participation in the general population, and large-scale qualitative studies examining the barriers and facilitators to participation in social, cultural and community assets, for people with lived experience and for the community and voluntary sector.

In this talk, the work and aims of the MARCH network will be presented, including preliminary findings from one of the qualitative studies.

Speaker 3: Building an interface between art and data science for health and wellbeing.

Dr Aristea Fotopoulou (University of Brighton)

The adoption of personalised digital health environments (e.g. self-management mobile apps), big data (e.g. surveillance of infectious outbreaks) and AI algorithms that inform decisions about social and health care (e.g. IBM Watson Health for social care management) all raise important issues about data and privacy today. Meanwhile, health promotion and communication have also moved to a digitised age, with health organisations using texts and social media in order to educate about health risks and prevention. But what opportunities are offered to develop new arts-based, participatory public health strategies for health and wellbeing in the era of datafication and digital health?

This talk reports on a new project that aims to enhance public engagement with health data through art practice. More specifically, the project explores how art and creativity can enable health literacy and data science skills amongst socioeconomically disadvantaged communities to reduce health inequalities. It is anticipated that the research will build a participatory interface that involves creativity and use of data to improve health and wellbeing, while allowing audiences and participants to reflect on the ethical, social, and political and cultural issues of big data and personalised medicine.