Where Do Germs Live? Understanding Handwashing through Art

September 29, 2016
Where Do Germs Live? Understanding Handwashing through Art

Brows furrowed in concentration, the group of Tanzanian students traced their hands onto the paper before painstakingly cutting out the outlines. Markers in hand, the students consulted with each other as they examined their outlines and marked all the locations germs might “live” on their hands.

Facilitated by Incubator student fellow, Nina Bhattacharya, the interactive workshop focused on communicating the importance of handwashing. While handwashing is ubiquitous in northern Tanzania, there remains a gap in connecting the practice to personal health. For the rest of the workshop, students broke up into small groups to brainstorm daily activities where handwashing would be a requirement. The room filled with animated conversation as they sketched out their thoughts. As a larger group, the participants quickly shared their reflections and listed their workshop guidelines for handwashing. The session culminated with creating a larger poster integrating students’ paper hand outlines and their newly formed guidelines.

The literature on public health communication is broad, covering topics from health literacy to theater education projects. However, work that specifically examines visual methodologies for public health messaging remains nascent—particularly in international contexts where English is not the primary language. Bhattacharya, a Master of Science (MS) student in global health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, collaborated with the Human Outreach Project in Tanzania to explore the nexus of these visual methodologies with community empowerment and engagement.

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