Using ‘graphic medicine’ to improve public health: #medicineonthewalls

The #medicineonthewalls project supported and enhanced public health messaging at the beginning of the COVID pandemic.

Graphic medicine

Graphic medicine is the term given to a relatively recent body of comic art that illustrates health.

Dr John Lee, the University’s programme director for the intercalated BA in Medical Humanities, worked with the Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft and various local graffiti artists, including Ryder, Decay, 3DOM and SEPR, to extend this kind of comic art to the streets.

The project presented the government's 'Stay Home' message with a distinctively Bristolian flavour. Even the mantra itself was tweaked: 'Stay Home' was replaced by 'Stay In' to include a more diverse target audience.

Outputs and outcomes

Digital versions of the wall designs were released on social media to broaden their impact. These were incorporated into the local paper's mastheads and later put up on billboards around the city by a national advertising agency.

Further walls were devised to picture and help understand the developing experience of the pandemic:

  • A 'Love the NHS' wall.
  • A partnership with a graffiti artist in Kenya, Msale, produced 'Apart Together' walls, painted simultaneously in both cities to recognise the shared, global nature of aspects of the pandemic.
  • A 'Mums Wall', designed by Camille Aubry, pictured the experience of parenting during lockdown, and was chosen by Historic England as one of their 100 images of lockdown.

Together, the physical and digital works were widely viewed and shared nationally and internationally, through news outlets and social media.

This work was possible thanks to a grant from the Temple Quarter Engagement Fund.

#medicineonthewalls takes graphic medicine to the streets. It tries to start healthcare discussions going from the ground up, and not the top down.  #medicineonthewalls tries to make the kind of emotional engagement with medicine and health happen better than it often does through official channels.

Dr John Lee, Programme Director, iBA in Medical Humanities, Department of English
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