Art for Health Project

Background

A4H collage adapted from Elisabetta Farina's paintings
© Elisabetta Farina
A4H collage adapted from Elisabetta Farina's paintings

Indicators of sexual and reproductive health continue to show wide differences between developed and developing countries. For example:

  • Some 530 000 women and three million newborn babies die each year from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth;and
  • Almost all of these potentially preventable deaths occur in developing countries;
  • The indicators also suggest that many developing countries are not on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal No. 5.

In 2006, to address this imbalance and promote action towards improving sexual and reproductive health of women and children worldwide, the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at the World Health Organization launched in 2006 a project entitled “Art for Health”, or “A4H” for short. The goal of this project is to use art to increase awareness about, and promote action towards, improving sexual and reproductive health around the world, especially the health of women and children.

The art commissioned for A4H is designed as a call to action, encouraging the viewer to participate in a unified effort to improve the lives of women of the present and future generations. The artwork also aims to change the stereotypical representation of underprivileged women as passive victims of circumstances with an image that shows these women as willing and capable partners in the advancement of women’s health.

In 2006, the artist, Ms Elisabetta Farina, was commissioned to produce the first series of paintings. Using a style originally developed during the Pop Art movement, the artist produced a set of paintings portraying positive images of women from diverse ethnic and social backgrounds. A4H was officially launched at an exhibition in Rome on 27 June 2007. Organized through the collaborative efforts of the Italian Ministry of Health, WHO, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, and IMAGINE Onlus, this event was attended by over 300 government officials, scientists, and journalists.

Exhibitions and other activities

At the present time the Department of Reproductive Health and Research has in its possession 62 paintings of various sizes – all painted by the same artist. Some of these paintings were donated by the artist to WHO to initiate the project; the rest of the paintings have been purchased by WHO from the artist. These paintings are available for display at exhibitions, congresses and other meetings and events. They can also be used for campaigns (for printing on posters, calendars, cards, handbags, etc.) related to promotion of women’s and children’s health.

To date, 12 A4H exhibitions have been held in eight countries (France, Ireland, Malaysia, South Africa, Switzerland, Italy, United Republic of Tanzania and the United Kingdom). It is estimated that approximately 25 000 people have so far seen the paintings at these exhibitions. Further exhibitions are planned in 2008 in India, Spain, and the USA.

Art for Health Auction: Christie's Rome June 2008

The Department of Reproductive Health and Research plans to sell 38 of the present lot of 62 paintings at an auction to be organized by Christie’s in Rome, Italy, on June 18 2008. Money raised from this sale will be used by the Department to fund specific activities in the area of sexual and reproductive health in developing countries.

How to collaborate with WHO in the A4H project

Time is now right for advocacy campaigns in the area of sexual and reproductive health to reach beyond the scientific and public health communities to generate the much needed resources for improving the health of women and children in developing countries. To facilitate this process, the A4H project is actively seeking the involvement of celebrities and other influential people to act as spokespersons for sexual and reproductive health.

Requests from individuals and institutions to use these paintings for exhibitions or other types of events and activities are welcome. Interested parties should send their proposals to WHO at artforhealth@who.int.

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