"Take a walk in someone else's shoes." Participatory Arts for informing health research.
A recent research paper published in Research Involvement and Engagement, sheds light on the potential of storytelling and persona creation in offering unique insights into how these creative methods can bridge the gap between academic institutions, healthcare facilities, and communities while promoting trust and empathy.
Co-created arts-based methods for participation in research, like storytelling and creative expression, allow individuals to share their perspectives, human experiences and emotions, they are increasingly seen as valuable ways to involve the public and patients in healthcare research and services.
This research led by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration Greater Manchester (ARC-GM), draws upon on number of research projects that used participatory arts with community members, to gain valuable insights into the respective research proejcts:
One of these, "Hidden: Adam's Story “focuses on Mental Health Awareness for young people. This audio-podcast series was created collaboratively with, Made by Mortals, and involved Individuals with lived experience taking on leadership roles to share their insights, creativity, and to gather knowledge. The planning for the podcast series drew on the participant’s imagination and life experiences to create characters and scenarios, with each episode featuring characters of diverse backgrounds and health conditions, designed to represent qualities shared by the creators.
"Hidden: Adam's Story," has been used in a number of ways, one of these being as a public and patient involvement and engagement (PPIE) tool to inform health research, another being as a training tool for healthcare professionals in hospital settings.
The research team also relied on participatory approaches in the use of a character and story to explore young adults' attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccines, which provided valuable insights into future vaccination strategies.
ARC-GM Research Associate and Author of this paper, Stephanie Gillibrand, commented:
"Using participatory approaches such as these re-imagines the ways in which we can communicate peoples' voice, experiences and ultimately how we may be able to include these in the overall research process. It highlights the importance of championing these approaches to diversify the voices that get heard in a way which promotes ownership over these narratives."
Involving those with lived experiences, particularly from groups who are traditionally excluded in research, helps to shift power dynamics, and may aid in trust and relationship building between institutions and communities in a way that encourages empathy within creative methods to aid health research and healthcare processes.
By involving individuals with lived experience of health conditions, these initiatives empower participants and users to "take a walk in someone else's shoes."