By Leanne Brady, Clara Abou Samra, Sana Contractor and Kenneth Munge, The Multimedia Working Group for the Sixth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research
As preparations for the Sixth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research (HSR2020) gain momentum, we are very excited to have a dedicated track for multimedia in this iteration of the conference. With just about three weeks to go for the Multimedia abstract submission deadline of 6 March, those of us in the HSR2020 Multimedia Working Group would like to take this opportunity to highlight how we think multimedia fits into this year’s ambitious conference themes. This blog draws on a Webinar introducing multimedia that was hosted by Health Systems Global (HSG) back in November 2019, and we would encourage readers to also take a moment to view the presentation which delves deeper into some of the themes discussed here.
The theme of HSR2020 is premised on the understanding that the pervasive and resistant problems of health systems are rooted in complex upstream challenges, including political challenges, which affect health and social justice. This demands a strategic paradigm shift in how health systems research is viewed, which requires engagement with political, social, economic and environmental forces, as well as leveraging on innovations in data and technology. Inherent in this shift is the need to engage with power and build on the use of art and multimedia in health systems interventions and research.
For several decades, media such as films, posters and music have been used to document health concerns of populations, to magnify the voices of the unheard as well as to raise consciousness about high-priority issues among people at large. In recent times, social media utilizes multimedia as a key tool to promote a better audience reach while encouraging effective, engaging and attentive communication. Artists, researchers and activists are using multimedia to break silos, educate, advocate and bridge the gap between the community and stakeholders for better health and social justice. At HSR2020, we seek to showcase such efforts, to unpack what this shift means, and to critically evaluate the potential of multimedia in upscaling research processes and pushing boundaries and to draw learnings for its use going forward.
The use of multimedia is dynamic and can be used differently and creatively. The potential of its utilization in health system research extends to serve various roles, which include its use to represent knowledge by explaining complex research results, advocate for causes, raise awareness or support collective action and decision-making processes. In all of these “uses” of multimedia, there is an embedded potential to transform and redefine power relations in health systems. The use of multimedia in representing knowledge, for instance, can make complex scientific knowledge accessible to the general public (who oftentimes fund research through taxes), as well as those who use research findings for decision-making purposes.In addition, the use of multimedia for advocacy and awareness can put critical and priority topics on the political and policy agenda. Finally, the use of multimedia for immediate action has catalytic potential, putting the power of evidence in the hands of people closest to the issues that matter. Most importantly, however, in challenging power through these means, multimedia has the potential to redefine what is understood by “evidence”, who decides what is “good” evidence, and who produces knowledge.
In the rapidly changing world of multimedia, several ethical concerns arise through how it is produced and how it is shared. These include the stereotypical portrayal of information, minority exclusion, privacy, confidentiality, and potential for harm, all of which need to be considered through an ethical lens in the production of knowledge. Considering the high reach of multimedia to a variety of audiences, it is crucial to address those ethical concerns as it moves forward within the sphere of health system strengthening.
As health systems move beyond their conventional boundaries, multimedia can play an important role in accentuating the interconnectedness of upstream factors by supporting health systems change through speaking truth to power, demanding accountability and challenging traditional epistemology in health system research. Now is the time to look beyond the instrumental use of multimedia as a health promotion tool, and explore new paradigms where health systems and multimedia can join forces to influence health and social justice.
We look forward to receiving your Multimedia abstract submissions! You can find out more about how to submit on the HSR2020 Abstract webpage. Deadline for submissions is 6 March, 2020.