Innovative Strategies to Address Equity in Child & Adolescent Health
April 2019

The Role of Arts & the Theory of Hope


Child and Adolescent Health Team
The Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs

At a time when the maternal and child health field is admirably focused on how to address equity, it’s enlightening to hear firsthand from people who are implementing innovative equity strategies. During AMCHP’s Annual Conference last month, we heard attendees at two roundtable sessions discuss their challenges, ideas, and solutions for health equity and holistic approaches for child and adolescent health. Among the themes that stood out:

  • The importance of cultivating partnerships that make communities accessible to address equity
  • Self-care as a part of a holistic approach to support the full family, and as part of training for the workforce that supports children and families.

To learn more, AMCHP’S Child and Adolescent Health team followed-up with attendees who shared examples on how to address those challenges: An artist who works with children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN) in Tennessee, and two leaders at a university-based social change center in Kansas.

Jama Mohamed

One of the innovative ideas shared during the roundtables was to partner with art-related organizations to address equity and engage communities that experience disparities. We asked Jama Mohamed to share his experience as a member of the Tennessee arts community, and his partnership with family and public health organizations.

As an artist, I collaborated with Family Voices of Tennessee (FVTN) on a creative placemaking project for people with disabilities and/or their families to feel included and to be able to share with each other, as well as the community, their experiences, their opinions, and their art. Funded through Metro-Nashville Arts Commission, we were be able to drive equity, inclusion, and access in the creative process that is not often presented to this population. People with disabilities and their families are not often able to see true-to-life representations of themselves in media.

Visiting them in their homes, I assisted each family in depicting their own experiences with disability, simply by using five short video shots. We screened all the shorts and discussed the process at the historic Belcourt Theatre. All people deserve the right to live a creative life. Creating art and sharing our stories makes people happier, more resilient, and healthier.

This project led FVTN to bring me on as its youth program coordinator. I facilitate a youth advisory council targeting children and youth with special health care needs in partnership with the Tennessee State Department of Health, while also developing broader youth programming. My skill set helps me create content and fun projects for youth.

Look to your local arts community for creative ideas to drive inclusion, equity and positive outcomes.

For more information about the project, visit:

Bridget Patti and Rebecca Gillam
University of Kansas

Self-care for families and the MCH workforce was discussed as an important part of a holistic approach to addressing health. During the roundtables, several attendees commented on how the “ACES and Hope: Findings from Lemonade for Life” workshop session tied into the themes discussed, and how increasing hope can be a strategy for mitigating adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

We caught up with Bridget Patti (who presented at the workshop) and Rebecca Gillam of the Center for Public Partnerships and Research, University of Kansas, to learn more about how Lemonade for Life operationalizes the theory of hope to address health equity.

Lemonade for Life is a program that was developed to help practitioners recognize and understand Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in families that they serve, and to provide them with tangible tools to build hope and resilience. The program is built on Hope Theory (Snyder, 1994). Hope Theory operationalizes what is often a misunderstood concept, but has proven to be an important factor for health and well-being. Lemonade for Life suggests that hope may actually be the antidote to trauma.

The theory includes two components: willpower and waypower. Willpower is the ability to generate intrinsic motivation to continue to pursue goals in the face of obstacles. Waypower is the ability to generate pathways to move through barriers that get in the way. It is the combination of these components that make up hopefulness.

Research has found that hope can be measurably changed in a 90-minute intervention (Feldman and Dreher, 2011). For helping professionals, this finding represents an opportunity to build hope and resilience in the families they work with.

The Lemonade for Life experience provides a process for practitioner participants to understand and practice these concepts. First, participants examine their own life experiences, including their ACEs and their hopefulness. Next, they explore the links between trauma and hope. Finally, they learn and practice tools to apply Hope Theory in their work. Results have found that participants are more confident about working with families, and that family engagement and retention in the program increase as a result. Lemonade for Life has been used across sectors in communities, including home visitors, family support professionals, medical providers, faith-based organizations, and community-based organization.

By understanding how hope affects us as practitioners we are better positioned to support families in a positive and productive way. Rather than taking a deficit approach, the Lemonade for Life toolkit provides a basis for strengths-based practice that helps families build willpower and waypower to  overcome obstacles and barriers that get in their way. With the knowledge and tools gained through the training, practitioners are equipped to integrate hope and resilience into their work with families by building plans that strengthen resilience, increasing education about brain development and toxic stress, and using the ACEs questionnaire to increase awareness about parenting patterns and behaviors.


  • Feldman, D.B. and Dreher, D. (2011). Can hope be changed in 90 minutes? Testing the efficacy of a single-session goal-pursuit intervention for college students. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13(4), 745-759.
  • Snyder, C. R. (1994). The psychology of hope: You can get there from here. New York: Free Press.