Today@Sam Article

Presentations To Explore Health In Art, Promote Health In Culture

March 31, 2015
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

The Sam Houston State University Department of Health Services and Promotion will offer the opportunity to learn about wellness and its relationship to art and culture during two April presentations.

On Tuesday (April 7), Kaia Magnusen, a visiting assistant professor of art history in SHSU’s Department of Art, will share how the work of artists can tell thematic stories of health, disease, wellness, and other social concerns.

“To Your Health! Images of Illness and Wellness in Art and their Relationship with Contemporary Social Health Issues” will be held from 4-5 p.m. in Academic Building IV’s Olson Auditorium.

Magnusen will take the audience on a “historical journey” of important art pieces with subtle or explicit health and disease imagery, and attendees will gain a new perspective in how art touches our individual lives and communities, according to Miguel Zuniga, associate professor and chair of the health services and promotion department.

“Dr. Magnusen is trained to interpret or decode the moment, space, and emotions conveyed by artists as it relates to imagery of health and disease,” Zuniga said. “Many higher education health programs in the United States are adding art appreciation to their curricula to instill the practice of observation and contemplation in students. 

“In our busy professional life, we find it easy to focus on a lab test or a community infant mortality rate to make health improvement decisions, but we miss the opportunity to visit a patient or a community to observe, interpret and confirm numerical estimations of what is a normal or abnormal state,” he said.

Magnusen focuses her research on the discourse of the body, including the dichotomies of disease-health, disfigured-“whole,” and “deviant”-ideal, as well as constructions of masculinity and femininity and the self-presentation of the artist. 

She received her doctorate from Rutgers University, her master’s degree from New York University and her bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College and studied in Germany. Her academic contributions include a chapter in the book “You Will See Greater Things Than These: Essays on Art as Spiritual Perception in Honor of E. John Walford” and presentations in Germany, England, Australia and across the U.S. 

She also has worked and interned at several prestigious museums including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence, Italy.  

A meet-and-greet with Magnusen will be held after the presentation.

On April 14, Rosanna Barrett, from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, will discuss “Advancing Health Equity through Cultural Awareness, Sensitivity, and Responsiveness,” addressing health disparities in Texas, from 4-5 p.m. in the ABIV Olson Auditorium.

Her talk, according to Zuniga, is especially relevant to those interested in population health improvement. Barrett is a strong proponent of health equity and promotes the application of cultural responsiveness in health and healthcare service delivery. 

“The vision of public health is healthy people in healthy communities, and there is no biological or physiological reason for current health disparities. But certain populations suffer from higher rates of disease, disability, and death,” Zuniga said. “The social determinants of health, meaning where people live, play and work, their culture, and their outlook in life have positive and negative impacts on individual and community health.

“In Texas, these disparities are manifested, for example, by higher adolescent pregnancy rates in some population groups or higher rates of injuries in other population groups,” he said. “As a way to raise health equity opportunities, the state of Texas through the Office of Minority Health of the Health and Human Services Commission is working to reduce and eliminate health and mental health disparities in population groups that include racial/ethnic groups, women, seniors, children, those with disabilities and their families.”

Barrett serves as the director for the THHSC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equality Center.

Barrett received a master's degree in public health from Florida International University and completed a public health doctoral degree in epidemiology from the Florida A&M University.

A public health practitioner with 12 years' experience in program management, epidemiology and research, she has worked with the Miami-Dade County Health Department and the Florida State Department before moving to Texas in 2012 to serve as manager for the Primary Prevention Branch in the Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Section at the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Barrett serves as a leader and subject matter expert on many health initiatives and has contributed to several peer-reviewed national publications and presented on various health topics at national, state, and local conferences. She also has delivered trainings and workshops to numerous professional groups and public entities to increase awareness and knowledge on specific health issues.

A meet-and-greet with Barrett will be held after the presentation.

For more information on either of these presentations, contact Zuniga at or 936.294.1110. 

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