Health humanities

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Health humanities refers to the application of the creative or fine arts (including visual arts, music, performing arts) and humanities disciplines (including literary studies, languages, law, history, philosophy, religion, etc.) to discourse about, express, and/or promote dimensions of human health and well being.[1] This applied capacity of the humanities is not itself a novel idea; however, the construct of the health humanities has only recently begun to emerge over the first decade of the 21st Century. Historically, the roots informing the health humanities can be traced back to, and can now be considered to include, such multidisciplinary areas as the medical humanities[2] and the expressive therapies/creative arts therapies.

In the health humanities, health (and the promotion of health) is understood according to the constructivist (and other non-positivist) principles indigenous to the humanities, as opposed to the positivism of science.[3][4] The health humanities are rooted in dialogical (negotiated, intersubjective voices of multiple truths), versus monological (a singular, authoritative voice of "the" truth) perspectives on health. As such, evidence upon which health practices are based is generally considered axiological (based in meanings, values, and aesthetics), versus epistemological (based in factual knowledge), in orientation. The health humanities are not an alternative to the health sciences, but rather offer a contrasting paradigm and pragmatic approach with respect to health and its promotion, and can function in a manner that is complementary and simultaneous relative to the health sciences.

The health humanities are a growing movement internationally.[5] A conference on the health humanities was held October 13–15, 2006, at Green College, University of British Columbia.[6] The conference was co-organized by Judy Segal (UBC English) and Alan Richardson (UBC Philosophy) and featured presentations by Jacalyn Duffin, Carl Elliott, Nicholas King, Lorelei Lingard, Robert Proctor, Susan Squier, Andrea Tone, and Kathleen Woodward. In January 2009, Paul Crawford became the world's first Professor of Health Humanities at The University of Nottingham, and with Dr Victoria Tischler, Charley Baker, Dr Brian Brown, Dr Lisa Mooney-Smith and Professor Ronald Carter created an international health humanities initiative that included the AHRC-funded International Health Humanities Conference (IHHC). A key article on "Health Humanities: The future of Medical Humanities" (Crawford, Brown, Tischler, & Baker, 2010) has been published in the Mental Health Review Journal.[7]

The 1st International Health Humanities Conference was held 6–8 August 2010, at The University of Nottingham, United Kingdom.[8][9] The conference opened with Professor Crawford's address entitled ‘Health humanities: Literature and Madness’ and included keynote lectures by Professor Kay Redfield Jamison and Professor Elaine Showalter. Mark A. Radcliffe, who also spoke at the conference, reported on 'health humanities' in his weekly column for the Nursing Times.[10] The conference was also reported in the Bethlem Blog.[11] The 2nd International Health Humanities Conference was hosted in the USA, 9–11 August 2012, at Montclair State University in New Jersey, with the theme of "Music, Health, and Humanity." The 3rd International Health Humanities Conference was held 5-7 September 2014, once again at the University of Nottingham, and featured the theme of "Traumatextualities: Trauma in the Clinical, Arts and Humanities Contexts."[12] The 4th International Health Humanities Conference was held 30 April and 1-2 May 2015, at the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, Anschutz Medical Campus, University of Colorado, Denver, featuring the theme of "Health Humanities: The Next Decade (Pedagogies, Practices, Politics)." [13] The 5th International Health Humanities Conference will be held 15-17 September 2016, at the University of Seville, Seville, Spain, featuring the theme of "Arts and Humanities for Improving Social Inclusion, Education, and Health: Creative Practice and Mutuality." [14]

Textbooks on the health humanities include Health Humanities Reader[15] and Health Humanities.[16]

In 2015 a Health Humanities Centre was established at University College London, dedicated to research and teaching in the Health Humanities, including an MA in Health Humanities.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ""What is Health Humanities?"". SCOPE: The Health Humanities Learning Lab. 2016. Retrieved September 15, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Medical Humanities - BMJ Journals". Retrieved 2010-07-05. 
  3. ^ Squier, S. M. (2007). Beyond nescience: The intersectional insights of health humanities. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 50 (3), 334-337.
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  7. ^ Crawford, P., Brown, B., Tischler, V. & Baker, C. (2010) Health Humanities: The future of medical humanities? Mental Health Review Journal, 15 (3): 4-10.
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  11. ^ 'Madness and Literature: Report from International Health Humanities Conference’, 16 August 2010.
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  15. ^ Jones, T., Wear, D., & Friedman, L. D. (Eds.). (2014). Health Humanities Reader. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
  16. ^ Crawford, P., Brown, B., Baker, C., Tischler, V., & Abrams, B. (2015). Health Humanities. London: Palgrave-Macmillan.
  17. ^ "UCL Health Humanities Centre". 

Jones T, Blackie M, Garden R, and Wear D. (2016) The Almost Right Word: The Move From Medical to Health Humanities. Academic Medicine


SCOPE: The Health Humanities Learning Lab