7 December 2020
The Weight of Expectation comic exploring how our culture stigmatises larger body sizes has won the Best Doctoral or Early Career Research Award in the 2020 Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Medical Humanities Awards.
The comic is the result of art collective Act With Love’s collaboration with illustrator Jade Sarson to visualise the research of sociologist Oli Williams. It was funded by the Wellcome Trust, NIHR ARC West, NIHR ARC East Midlands, Attenborough Arts Centre and the University of Leicester. Oli held the NIHR CLAHRC West Dan Hill Fellowship in Health Equity from 2016-17.
Drawing on themes of stigma and weight, The Weight of Expectation is based on the experiences of people who attended NHS-subsidised weight-loss groups in one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in England. Copies of the comic are available on the Act With Love website.
Commenting on the win, Oli said:
“It’s great to see this project get this sort of recognition. So many people made The Weight of Expectation project what it has become – particularly those who shared their experiences with me during my doctoral research, Jade Sarson who illustrated them in the comic, my brother Joe (co-founder of AWL) who co-created a touring exhibition with me and Abbie Trayler-Smith for joining us on the tour.
“The launch event in Bristol at Christmas Steps Gallery was one of the highlights of the project. CLAHRC West (now ARC West of course) played such a big role in making that happen and the funding they supported me with meant that we were able to increase the print run and consequently get the comic into the hands of many more people.
“The comic is now having international impact. It is used in health services and medical education around the world to support healthcare professionals improve standards of care and to teach the next generation about the detrimental impacts of weight-based stigma. The more attention and recognition given to work on weight stigma the better, because we are in drastic need of change.”
Oli also appeared on BBC Radio 3’s Arts & Ideas programme with the other winners. Listen to the special edition of the show.
The awards celebrate the range of research using arts and humanities methodologies (PDF) to tackle medical challenges, from antimicrobial resistance to mental health.
The AHRC Medical Humanities Awards – in association with the Wellcome Trust – showcase the best research taking place at the interface of the arts and humanities and medicine and celebrates its positive impact on medical outcomes.
Professor Edward Harcourt, Director of Research, Strategy and Innovation at AHRC, said:
“The projects recognised by these awards demonstrate that research into medical humanities has both academic and practical value with many projects already improving people’s long-term quality of life.
“A fundamental part of AHRC’s mission is to encourage research that brings together communities from academia, the arts and medicine. These projects are a shining example of what we can achieve when we do this.”
Dr Dan O’Connor, Head of Humanities & Social Science at Wellcome, said:
“From how the history of epidemics contributes to modern policies, to linking the intersections of social stigma and health inequalities, the diversity of these winning projects are astonishing examples of the importance of understanding health in its social and cultural contexts.
“Discovery research in the medical humanities research informs our understanding on the very essence of what it means to be human and Wellcome proudly supports a range of research projects that provide these fresh insights.
“The growing complexity of healthcare and wellbeing across a range of settings shows this research is as important now as it has ever been.”