Painting for Health is a series of collaborations involving undergraduate art students at the University of Rochester, medical professionals who work with underserved patients, members of the organization Refugees Helping Refugees,, and Rochester residents living in a diverse range of neighborhoods throughout the city.
In the first project, students in the Advanced Painting course met with with adult students at Refugees Helping Refugees to learn about the obstacles refugees face when coming to the United States. The small group conversations, facilitated by translators, included discussions about personal experiences with health care. The students then met with Dr. Douglas Stockman, a doctor from Highland Family Medicine in Rochester who works specifically with refugees in Rochester. They discussed the cultural and language-based obstacles that providers face and the efforts that have been made to overcome those obstacles. For example, meeting times are cut in half when all communication must go through a translator. Dr. Stockman also expressed the difficulty that medical providers have with ensuring that the instructions for taking medication will be clear after the patients leave the clinic. Back in the classroom, the Advanced Painting students discussed everything that they heard from both groups and then took on the challenge of creating a book that would attempt to alleviate some of the obstacles by providing opportunities for doctors and patients to communicate through visual language. The resulting book, "Painting for Health" includes a page for translators to write the patient's history once so that doctors can read it quickly and quickly move on. There is a two-page spread where doctors can check off boxes next to images showing the sun rising in the morning, the afternoon sun, and the evening darkness. It includes a section on domestic violence, translated into eight languages, and a visual food chart with the English names listed underneath. The book continues to be distributed widely to both medical professionals and refugee centers.