Health Humanities

Health Humanities

Health humanities represents an innovative inter-disciplinary approach to advancing the health of populations worldwide through scholarship and practice grounded in histories, languages, and cultures. Combining humanities and social science scholarship with clinical medicine and public health, the field of health humanities seeks to improve communication in the clinical encounter, the salience and sustainability of health systems in the clinic and beyond, and the accessibility of care, as well as strengthening existing familial, cultural, and collective resilience.

Applying humanities and interpretive social science methodologies to health research can reveal the hidden complexity of familiar Western health-related variables, such as race, ethnicity, or sexuality, and improve outcomes of culturally-embedded behaviors, such as treatment-seeking or adherence. At the same time, health humanities strives to incorporate non-Western medical humanities traditions and participants, including patients and communities, to create a more diverse, inclusive, and democratic model of health knowledge creation. Outreach to patients as participants in this dialogue offers fresh encounters and novel ways of thinking about health and what it truly means to be "well."

The health humanities program supports education, service, and research through engagement across disciplines, levels of training, and patient/provider status in the health and academic communities. Examples of current and proposed health humanities efforts include the following: 


  • Faculty exchanges between humanities and health course directors for cross-over lectures and readings
  • Faculty can access research resources through a proposed health humanities lab to assist in qualitative research design, implementation, and analysis, as well as grounding proposals within cultural conditions to enhance ethical implementation, successful research outcomes, and likelihood of receiving funding
  • Faculty in humanities have the opportunity to contribute to student education and research through lunchtimes talks on methods and regional issues


  • Undergraduate, masters, doctoral, and post-doctoral students and trainees can use and contribute to the health humanities lab through developing and compiling humanities and regional research resources
  • Students can participate in lunchtime talks and other seminars to enhance their method toolkit with qualitative, historical, and humanities research practices
  • Students can join regional interest groups that foster knowledge in history, language, and culture for their research projects


  • Illness and wellness demographics can form communities through social media, reading groups, advocacy and fundraising networks, representation of health research needs, and community-based participation in research studies.

Health care providers

  • Creative expression and lifelong humanistic and humanitarian engagement may counter the stress of dealing with pathological cause and effect feedback loops and provide motivation for empathic renewal of health care commitment.

This forum encourages overlap of networks and dynamics among all of the above groups locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. 


Recent Posts

  • Health Humanities: Terrence Holt & Reading of "Internal Medicine"

    Health Humanities: Terrence Holt & Reading of "Internal Medicine"

    October 2 2015
    Health Humanities: Terrence Holt & Reading of "Internal Medicine" Friday, October 2, 2015 - 12:00pm - 2:00pm FHI Garage - C105, Bay 4, Smith Warehouse Please join us for the book reading and discussion of Terrence Holt's Internal Medicine: A Doctor's Stories - a powerful collection of stories...
    Franklin Humanities Institute, Garage (room C105), Bay 4
    Smith Warehouse Building, 114 S Buchanan Blvd
    Durham, NC 27701
    United States
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