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Health humanities refers to the application of the creative or fine arts (including visual arts, music, performing arts) and humanities disciplines (including literary studies, languages, law, history, philosophy, religion, etc.) to discourse about, express, and/or promote dimensions of human health and well being. This applied capacity of the humanities is not itself a novel idea; however, the construct of the health humanities has only recently begun to emerge over the first decade of the 21st Century. Historically, the roots informing the health humanities can be traced back to, and can now be considered to include, such multidisciplinary areas as the medical humanities and the expressive therapies/creative arts therapies.
In the health humanities, health (and the promotion of health) is understood according to the constructivist (and other non-positivist) principles indigenous to the humanities, as opposed to the positivism of science. The health humanities are rooted in dialogical (negotiated, intersubjective voices of multiple truths), versus monological (a singular, authoritative voice of "the" truth) perspectives on health. As such, evidence upon which health practices are based is generally considered axiological (based in meanings, values, and aesthetics), versus epistemological (based in factual knowledge), in orientation. The health humanities are not an alternative to the health sciences, but rather offer a contrasting paradigm and pragmatic approach with respect to health and its promotion, and can function in a manner that is complementary and simultaneous relative to the health sciences.
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