Paramedics, poetry, and film: health policy and systems research at the intersection of theory, art, and practice

Abstract Violence is a public health issue. It is the consequence of a complex set of interacting political, social, and economic factors firmly rooted in past and current injustice. South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the world, and in some areas, the rates of violence are comparable to a country that is at war. Increasingly, paramedics working in high-risk areas of Cape Town are being caught in the crossfire, and in 2018, there was an attack on a paramedic crew nearly every week. These attacks are a symptom of much deeper, complex societal issues. Clearly, we require new approaches to better understand the complexity as we collectively find a way forward. It is in this context that we are collaborating with paramedics, poets, and filmmakers to tell human stories from the frontline thereby bringing the lived experiences of healthcare workers into policy making processes. In this commentary, we share a series of poems and a poetry-film that form part of a larger body of work focused on the safety of paramedics, to catalyze discussion about the possibilities that arts-based methods offer us as we seek to better understand and engage with complex social issues that have a direct impact on the health system.