Health inequalities, ethnic minorities and COVID19: interactive theatre workshop drawing on a qualitative interview study

Anna Dowrick* (Corresponding Author), Tanvi Rai, Lisa Hinton, Bella Eacott, Sylvan Baker, Maria Askew, Sue Ziebland, Louise Locock

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalAbstractpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: The COVID19 pandemic revealed and deepened existing inequalities. These were exacerbated by institutional and interpersonal racism and poorly conceived public health messaging. As a result, people from minority ethnic backgrounds in the UK were disproportionately affected. We conducted a creative interdisciplinary session to support interactive reflection and discussion on these inequalities between the actors and the audience, who was comprised of public health scientists and NHS practitioners, to come up with practical ways to address ethnicity-based health inequalities going forward. METHODS: We prepared a 45 min interactive scenario drawing on forum theatre approaches, which are based on the Theatre of the Oppressed: a set of dramatical techniques created by Augusto Boal. To understand what to include the interactive scenario we carried out a workshop built on a narrative interview study with 70 adults who had Covid between March, 2020, and November, 2021. We adopted a maximum variation sampling strategy focusing on people from minority ethnic backgrounds (45 of total sample). Interviews were done remotely and recorded via video or audio. Study participants were invited to tell their story in their own words, alongside semi-structured prompting. After thematic analysis, the research team worked with theatre practitioners from the Performing Medicine company to create scenarios from verbatim interview content. The format allows audience members to watch scenarios and interact directly with actors, giving advice on how to improve the situation. The study was approved by Berkshire Ethics Committee. Informed verbal and written consent were obtained from all participants. 

FINDINGS: Five themes from analysis explored in the workshop emerged: (1) existing racialised disadvantages that impacted COVID-19 exposure: employment, housing, and caring responsibilities; (2) unequal access to care, welfare, and support; (3) fears about the health-care system regarding quality of care and vaccine safety; (4) perceptions that the media and public health messaging blamed minority ethnic groups for spreading infection; and (5) increases in acts of direct racism. These informed the development of a 45-minute interactive scenario, which will be performed at the 10th UK Public Health Science conference. 

INTERPRETATION: There is an urgent need to re-evaluate public health messaging and care for people from minority ethnic backgrounds. This theatre workshop will support reflection to refine workshop content for further dissemination. 

FUNDING: UK Economic and Social Research Council.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S9
JournalLancet (London, England)
Issue numberSupplement 1
Early online date24 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

UK Economic and Social Research Council.


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