PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Theater for Health
Using the arts to deliver science to low-income communities

Andrew Pleasant  

The arts can be a powerful tool to communicate science with the goal of promoting health. Through the arts, we can communicate multiple evidence-based messages that promote healthy behaviors to individuals and communities. Health literacy allows the public and personnel working in all health-related contexts to find, understand, evaluate, communicate, and use information to make informed decisions. Theater for Health is a new approach to combining the arts - music, dance, and theater - with the best practices of health literacy. This workshop will introduce participants to the Theater for Health model of communicating science to improve health and well-being. Combining science, the arts, and health literacy is a multi-layered, culturally and linguistically appropriate approach to improving public health. Theater for Health was first developed to improve household hygiene in a shantytown - pueblos jóvenes - in Lima, Perú. In this approach, community members themselves identify and adopt healthy behaviors that have a demonstrable impact on health. This approach introduces and exchanges scientific information by adapting culturally familiar narratives, songs, stories, and other materials to protect and improve individual and community health. In Lima, outcomes included increased knowledge about household hygiene and public health, improved behaviors and attitudes related to household hygiene, and a reduction in the microbiological load in food preparation areas. The pilot of Theater for Health in Lima, Perú demonstrated the power of science, the arts, and health literacy to improve health in individuals and communities. Future applications of this methodology will adapt the approach to a variety of health conditions and cultural settings. Workshop participants will first be introduced to the Theater for Health methodology. Then, participants will work through a series of individual and small group exercises demonstrating how Theater for Health can be created and used as the basis for evidence-based behavior change.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.