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The Western Massachusetts Health Equity Summit: Performance and Public Health

Western Massachusetts Health Equity SummitLately, I feel most inspired by projects that combine my interest in the arts with my work in public health. Last week, I had the chance to speak about the connection between them at the first-ever Western Massachusetts Health Equity Summit.

The Health Equity Summit brought together public health professionals and community members with the common goal of sharing experiences and collaborating to improve access to equitable health care in Western Massachusetts. I was already excited to attend, but when I found out that the Summit Planning Committee wanted to open the Summit with a series of skits, I instantly wanted to get involved.

I expressed my interest to the Deputy Field Director at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and she suggested I help draft and produce the skits for the Summit. The skits we prepared covered different social and environmental factors that can affect health outcomes — for example, access to transportation, cost of food, difficulty understanding a prescription, or hesitancy to disclose sexual orientation in the doctor’s office.

Instead of simply outlining these different scenarios on paper, the performances allowed audience members to actually experience them.

The purpose of the skits is not to solve problems directly, but rather to capture the complexity of people’s experiences with health care and generate an emotional response from the audience. By the end of the performances, the audience better understood the factors in our community that create health inequities.

Producing these skits demonstrated how we can use art to create powerful educational experiences — and provoke important conversations about complex public health issues.

I can’t wait for the next Summit!

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