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Creative Insights: a collaboration exploring young people’s perspectives on health inequalities

As part of a collaboration between the University of Glasgow and Impact Arts, researchers and artists spent three weeks with 21 young people from Glasgow, exploring their perspectives on health inequalities through drawing, printmaking, and photography.

What are health inequalities and why are young people’s perspectives important?

There are many factors that shape a person’s health. Many of the most important influences are not things that people choose to do (e.g. diet, exercise) but are driven by circumstances outside of their control. People living in the most affluent areas of Scotland are likely to enjoy many more years of good health than those living in the least affluent areas. These unfair differences in health experiences and outcomes across the population are known as “health inequalities”.

Relatively little is known about what young people think about the existence of health inequalities and what should be done to address the issue. Young people’s perspectives are particularly important now. The Covid-19 pandemic, which has worsened health inequalities in all areas of life, had a disproportionate impact on young people with disruptions to their education, mental health, relationships, and future outlooks.

In the Creative Insights project young people in Glasgow and Leeds were invited to explore these issues together with artists and researchers. The Glasgow groups worked with visual artists from Impact Arts and the Leeds groups with performance artists at Leeds Playhouse.

What did we do in Creative Insights?

Over the course of three, 4-day online workshops, 21 young people from across Glasgow collaborated with artists and researchers in group discussions and creative activities to explore diverse understandings of what shapes health and our priorities for potential solutions to the enduring existence of health inequalities.

In preparation, young people received creative packs to their door, including lots of exciting materials for sketching, collage, and printmaking.

Covid restrictions meant that groups were only able to meet online. Artist Jack Stancliffe led creative activities to help get to know each other, and make everyone comfortable with sharing their experiences, feedback, and artworks over Zoom. Warm-up exercises, such as continuous line self-portraits helped everyone get started with working creatively and sharing their work online.

On the first day, we explored our experiences of lockdown through a series of dialectograms: bird’s eye view drawings of the spaces we frequented, experienced, or were excluded from during the pandemic. The intricate line drawings young people produced revealed the nuance and poignancy of common experiences related to school closures, shifting relationships, and the importance of green spaces.

On day 2 and day 3, we worked with young people to create posters that encapsulated their demands for change through collage and printmaking techniques. Creative facilitator Beth Farmer introduced us to the basics of block printing using Styrofoam sheets.

The posters clearly demonstrate the voice of Generation Z, calling for change, demanding a seat at the table, and advocating for more equitable and inclusive policy decision-making.

Each week culminated in a showcase event, where young people shared their posters, their creative process, and articulated their demands in front of an audience of researchers and industry professionals.

Lead Researcher, Gillian Fergie, said “Working with Impact Arts and the incredible young artists that engaged in Creative Insights has been a really valuable experience for me. The artworks they produced make clear that now, more than ever, it is important that decision-makers make space to hear from young people as key stakeholders in future health and social policy decisions.”

What happens next?

We are currently working to collate everything the young people shared with us, their reflections and all their artworks. If you are interested in hearing more about the project please do get in touch:

Head to the website featuring examples of the amazing creative content produced

This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council [ES/S001913/1].

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