Health, Art and Participatory Processes

Mabe (Maria Beatriz) Garcia-Rincon
24 February 2016

A Health Assessment uses participatory processes to engage stronger governance and tackle urban issues that could otherwise increase health disparities. In El Calvario, the process will begin with identifying how slums in this city experience health outcomes based on past planning efforts, neighborhood development outcomes, and neighborhood infrastructure networks. 


Meanwhile, various community leaders and organizations in the neighborhood are working hand-in-hand with state government medical professionals, small slum medical centers as well as small shop owners, foundations and civic organizations. They are based in one of the three sections of the slum: lower Calvario, middle Calvario and upper Calvario. The key will be making sure the results are apolitical yet meaningful to deliver change in a participatory way, identifying key vices as well as unheard ones in this complex social fabric. 


Workshops will provide an opportunity to ask a specific question relating to urban form with diseases, and identify plausible solutions via art, culture and artistic interventions. In addition, a series of creative healing workshops will take place whereby the urban form is examined to develop a set of interventions that improve the neighborhoods psyche, thus improving the reflection within these barrios into units of holistic integration. 


Through these leaders, communities work with state-level government, national-level ministries, and community members involved in the arts to find a way to brainstorm how communities can enhance their neighborhood’s health. 


As an urban exercise, the urban form is considered like a body, which can be probed and tested to identify illnesses. In the case of this specific barrio, the informal making of underground pipe networks is a drainage illness that affects water coverage in the barrio. When residents build their informal houses, they also plug-in their own pipes in an invisible yet complicated set of pipes, which results can have a range of ill effects: water leakage into the streets or even into a neighbour’s home, mosquitoes problems, dengue and a complicated set of humidity-related lung diseases (asthma, sinus infections, pneumonia).


The Health Assessment workshop invites the community to attend bi-weekly events to work out these so-called urban illnesses. The workshop gives the community the tools to work on their neighborhood environmental injustice issues, such as the highly polluted river on the East side of the slum, or their insecurity issues that can be identified through mapping. 


Here, Geographic Information Services (GIS) will become an essential tool in bringing around 70 mapped health issues into a more complex analysis of the issues plaguing slums. Then, they will work with the community to identify ways they can solve their urban health issues. The second step is to allow local and national stakeholders to draw up plans that solve these very complex and at times hidden issues.