The Art of Humanising Science: a focus on Infection Prevention and Control

Kathryn Catterick 

Infection Prevention Control Manager, Calvary South Tasmania, Bagdad, TAS, Australia


Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) is a discipline dominated with quantitative data; rates for hand hygiene compliance and health care acquired infections, biostatistics, epidemiological frequencies and patterns of public health events. In considering how art humanises the science of infection prevention and control, I will present a qualitative review of how great artists have illustrated the connection between infectious diseases and empathic morality. Throughout history, artists have used their talents to depict significant epidemiological events, expose the truth and arouse emotion. They have provided us with a visual narrative in order for us to make sense of communicable diseases and public health. Art about science has the capacity to deconstruct and humanise infectious diseases, allowing us to come to terms with the transitions and outcomes. Art is the perspective through which we can look at science objectively.
I will consider the works of artists such as Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Francisco de Goya, Edvard Munch, Alice Neel and Keith Haring. How have these artists connected the science of infection prevention and control with that of moral empathy, and what can we learn from them? Rich and poignant information about the epidemics of influenza, tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/Aids and IPC controls such as isolation, clinical interventions, protective equipment and education. Art has preserved this rich epidemiological history and in doing so has the potential to inform our contemporary infection, prevention and control practices.

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