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Winners of inaugural Health Humanities Medal awards announced

Date: 11/09/2018


The five winners of the first ever Health Humanities Medal awards have been revealed today (Tuesday, 11 September 2018).

Professor Helen Chatterjee, Professor of Biology at University College London (UCL), was awarded the Health Humanities Medal in recognition of her research into how museums can be beneficial to health.

Chatterjee led a three-year collaboration project between UCL, Canterbury Christ Church University and seven museums from central London and Kent, looking at how museums can help those who are lonely and at risk of isolation.

The ‘museums on prescription’ project saw 115 people, aged between 65 and 94-years-old, take part in sessions led by museum staff, including talks, behind the scenes tours and a variety of activities. Analysis from Chatterjee and her team showed significant improvements in psychological wellbeing, improved quality of life and an increased sense of belonging.

The winners were announced during a ceremony at the Houses of Parliament, which was sponsored by Justin Tomlinson, MP for North Swindon.

The full list of winners are:

  • Leadership Award and overall Health Humanities Medal winnner - Professor Helen Chatterjee from University College London  
  • Best Research AwardProfessor Alastair Macdonald from Glasgow School of Art for his design-led research that looked at how to address the challenge of antimicrobial resistance. He led a project which combined design knowledge with healthcare best practice to develop an innovative new tool to help train staff about Infection Prevention Control (IPC), creating a virtual setting to make scenarios seem more real.
  • Best Doctoral or Early Career Research AwardDr Daisy Fancourt from University College London for her research into music and psychoneuroimmunology. She looked at the combined psychological and biological effects of music with different patient groups. She used the results of over 60 studies to develop a better understanding, allowing her to create a new model of music and biological response.
  • Inspiration AwardProfessor Havi Carel from University of Bristol and Professor Jane Macnaughton from Durham University for the ‘Life of Breath’ project which explores breathlessness from a health humanities perspective. The project aims to make breathlessness and the associated suffering more visible. It engages with respiratory patients with limited mobility, seeking to interact with them in their local community rather than in a clinical setting, revealing the authentic stories of these ‘invisible’ lives.
  • Best International Research AwardDr Ross White from University of Liverpool for his work exploring the effects of trauma in relation to post-conflict situations. His work focuses on understanding how local idioms are used to express wellbeing, resilience and distress in different languages. The research is then used to adapt psychotherapeutic interactions to be more linguistically and culturally sensitive. This in turn has helped improve patient’s self-confidence and self-regard.

Professor Edward Harcourt, Director of Research, Strategy and Innovation at the AHRC said: “We are delighted to be supporting these new awards. The AHRC has always seen the importance of backing the health humanities.

“We were struck by the exceptional quality of the applications, which express a more inclusive vision of health and wellbeing and how to achieve it in ways that are not driven by medical science alone.”

Led by Professor Paul Crawford at the University of Nottingham, the Arts & Humanities Research Council, in association with the Wellcome Trust, awards the Health Humanities Medal in recognition of the excellent work being done to improve quality of life, health and wellbeing using arts and humanities research.

There were almost 100 entries across the five categories and these were assessed by a panel of academics, health practitioners and industry professionals. The first panel comprising Dr Catherine Stones from University of Leeds, Dr Brian Lobel, University of Chichester; Dr Matthew Smith, University of Strathclyde, and chair Professor Nicola Shaughnessy, University of Kent whittled down the entries to a shortlist of 24.

The winners were then selected by a second panel, chaired by Professor Edward Harcourt, which included:

  • Vivienne Parry, UK Research and Innovation Board member, and science and health writer
  • Peter Hunt, former BBC correspondent and Director of Communications at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Susie Hall, Head of Arts at Great Ormond Street Hospital

Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), said: “Health Humanities is an important interdisciplinary field which applies arts and humanities approaches to drive improvements in health, social care and wellbeing. These awards are an excellent opportunity to showcase the very high quality of Health Humanities research across the UK, working in areas as diverse as antimicrobial resistance, music and psychoneuroimmunology, and trauma in post-conflict situations.”


Notes to editors

Header image: The collage showcases the many nominees for the 2018 Health Humanities awards.

About the Arts & Humanities Research Council

The Arts and Humanities Research Council funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: archaeology, area studies, the creative and performing arts, design, digital content, heritage, history, languages, philosophy and much more. This financial year we will spend approximately £98 million on research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides economic, social and cultural benefits to the UK, but contributes to the culture and welfare of societies around the globe.

The AHRC is part of UK Research and Innovation, a new body that works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £6 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and a new organisation, Research England.

About Wellcome Trust

Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. We support bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine. Our investment portfolio gives us the independence to support such transformative work as the sequencing and understanding of the human genome, research that established front-line drugs for malaria, and Wellcome Collection, our free venue for the incurably curious that explores medicine, life and art. www.wellcome.ac.uk

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