Look for us at the American Public Health Association conference in New Orleans in November.  We’ll be presenting about Data Murals as a way to engage residents in community health planning and increase data literacy.  After attending the conference for a number of years and being disappointed by small number of art projects being presented, here’s an opportunity for us to make the connection between art and health promotion for a broader audience!

Here’s what we’ve proposed to discuss at our session:

Title: Data Murals – using art to build community engagement, increase data literacy and increase public conversation about local health concerns

Increasingly, decisions about community health are data-driven and evidence-based. While this can increase the impact and efficacy of interventions, it leaves many community members out of conversations and out of the decision-making process. Data murals use collaborative art to bring conversations about local health back into the public sphere and prepare community members without a background in data analysis to participate actively in the creation and public presentation of data-driven public health messaging.

Five data murals have now been created, focusing on food security, global health, youth safety, and childhood obesity prevention. Each mural was designed through a three-part process. First, community residents of all ages came together for a “story-finding” workshop in which they looked together at information collected by their own community or organization and found a story that they thought was important to tell publicly. They then participated in hands-on collaborative art activities to design a mural that tells their story. Last, they painted the design as a public mural, inviting even more community residents to participate, to continue the conversation and reach a large audience with their message.

By using non-academic language, a hands-on, playful approach to data analysis and a collaborative design process, community members are able to participate actively in the translation of data into public health messaging. The process of collaborative data analysis, design and painting increases community engagement, establishes new partnerships, increases public awareness of the issues being discussed by decision-makers, and builds capacity for community engagement in health policy decisions.