Sunday, March 25, 2007

Bioethics Quilt Project: Black Americans and Medicine

[Thanks to Karama Neal for this entry!]

This presentation will explore the relationship between quilting, an enriched group process, and the emergence of a community narrative concerning a traumatic community experience, the U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study. Using the framework of occupational science, the academic discipline that informs occupational therapy as a profession, the relationship between engagement in meaningful activities, health and well-being is explored. The project is collaboration among 15 African American women, between the ages of 55 and 95 years, who attend a local community center and the Occupational Therapy Program at Tuskegee University. Incorporating an enriched group process described as occupational form, the pre existing physical elements & social cultural contexts that elicit, guide, or structure human performance (Nelson 1988 p. 21), is instrumental in revealing important clues about the projects potential as a catalytic tool for community outreach, public conversation, and education. Moreover, as a result of this engagement there are strong indications that health related benefits are also possible. Quilting is a most appropriate occupation (meaningful activity) to use with African American women because of the social, cultural, and personal meanings and metaphors inherent in the activity (Fidler, 1999 p. 3).

Like the multiple textures of a quilt, this inquiry project has multiple themes and objectives. From the perspective of the participating women, it seeks to "patch" together stories in an effort to understand the legacy of the syphilis study, and the biopsychosocial impact it had, and continues to have on the lives of women, families and the community as a whole. In the vernacular of African American quilting the term "patch," remnant pieces of fabric or those extracted from old clothes and sewn into squares, is used as a metaphor for stories being told, hence; "stories that bind, stitches that heal." Patch one of the project represents the central motif and provides a rich description of the project, its qualitative design, objectives, and methodologies. Patch two discusses what was learned from the project, its• socially constructed-meaning, as well as the expressed hopes and aspirations of the participants.


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