Mapping the Public’s Health: A Participatory Mapping Workshop

On 7 November 2023, Jennifer Fraser and Thandeka Cochrane from the Cartographies of Cancer project, working in conjunction with Wellcome Fellow Philip Jagessar and the Living Maps Network, held a three-hour participatory health mapping workshop.

The workshop kicked off with a presentation on the history of medical health mapping by Jennifer Fraser, asking why and how we started mapping health. Thandeka Cochrane then gave a presentation on the difficulties of finding and generating the medical health data that goes into global public health maps, using the example of the challenges and success of cancer registries in Sub-Saharan Africa. We interrogated how maps sometimes lie, and how data can be mathematically constructed when insufficient hard data is available.

The second half of the workshop was led by the Living Maps Network who guided participants in two participatory mapping exercises. Barbara Brayshay and Jina Lee guided one half of the group in making ‘Talking Maps’. Participants were asked various prompt questions, such as ‘What is home?’, ‘Where do you go for GPs/Pharmacies?’ ‘Where did you go to find environmentally healthy spaces?’ and had to map their responses to the questions on a piece of paper, whilst talking to their group about what they were drawing and why (see pictures of maps). The second half of the group were taken outdoors by artist Kimbal Bumstead to use drawing, rubbings and mark making to create layered maps that tune into our sensory experience of the world, and to consider how it feels to be a body in a space. They sat in various locations near the venue, closing their eyes and carefully paying attention to the soundscapes they were experiencing which they then mapped onto paper.