one • Evidence of the Impact of Quilts and Quiltmaking on Health and Health-Care Outcomes
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| 7 Literature on the association between quilts, quiltmaking, well-being, health, and health-care outcomes is still sparse. The majority of scholarly studies lack rigorous scientific research designs or deep humanistic investigation. There are few that have used randomized control groups, representative samples, or standardized instruments to measure indicators of health and clinical outcomes. Many of the qualitative studies are limited in their sample size or methods. However, there is no denying the accumulation of an astronomical amount of anecdotal evidence that clearly links quilts and health, from which we have gleaned just a fraction for this book. One could argue that when so many narratives are amassed, all indicating the same thing, the collective no longer fits the common definition of anecdotal, individual case examples, stories based on hearsay rather than on hard facts and statistical confirmation. On the contrary, the data that have been compiled related specifically to quilts and health suggest findings that are anything but atypical. Further, they are conducive to being investigated using sound, replicable scientific methods as well as deeper humanistic exploration. Indeed , this field of inquiry is growing, just as it has in the area of testing the association of the arts in general with health outcomes. It is wide open for such critical analyses, and we posit that as such studies are undertaken, the empirical evidence will substantiate what we already believe to be true: that quilts, as they are used today and have been for centuries, equal good health. We will even go as far as suggesting that there are ways in which quilts can be distinguished from other art forms in terms of their therapeutic and clinical value. In this chapter we explore the current evidence for our claim and invite scholars to take on the challenge of closing gaps in knowledge so that the richness of this art form, and associated stories, can contribute to more holistic, person-centered health-care practices and, as a result, improved quality of life, health, and health-care outcomes. Methods We started our research for this book with several guiding tenets. The primary objective was to explore the prevalence, use, meaning, and impact of quilts related specifically to health, whether for therapeutic, educational, fund-raising, or other purposes. We were particularly interested in the stories behind the quilts. Multiple methods of data collection have been used since 2011, including posting requests on two major quilt-related blog sites and two Evidence of the Impact of Quilts and Quiltmaking on Health and Health-Care Outcomes one} 8 | Quilts and Health Facebook pages—Quilts and Health and Quilts Vintage and Antique—which, all combined, have nearly three thousand members. Blog and Facebook news feeds were also culled for relevant posts from other sites, which produced nearly three thousand news and journal articles . In addition, email requests were sent to eleven hundred quilt guilds across the United States asking them to share the invitation with their members. This generated 105 responses from individuals who hoped to have their quilts and stories recognized. All of those who responded to these appeals were asked to complete a “Quilts and Health” documentation form. The form asked for extensive information on the quiltmaker, including demographics and their quiltmaking history, such as how they learned to quilt; from whom, when, and why they quilt; how many quilts they have made; and whether they belong to a guild. Data were also collected on the quilts themselves, including when they were made; where, why, and by whom; and how they are or were used. Finally,anextensivesearchwasundertakenofthemassiveQuiltIndexarchives,adigitalrepository of more than eighty thousand quilts, each with an associated, completed data collection form similar to that just described. In all of these searches, multiple key words were used, such as “quilts,” “quilters,” “quiltmaking,” “health,” “cancer” and names of other diseases, and “well-being.” The searches resulted in an almost unmanageable amount of data, and we then faced the task of reading, organizing, and analyzing the wealth of riches we gathered. The focus of this chapter is on the empirical evidence for an association between quilts and health, gleaned from close to one hundred academic journal articles. The primary inclusion criteria included a focus on measurable health indicators, such as stress, anxiety, grief, coping, and a sense of well-being, and factors that affect health, such as creative expression and opportunities for affirmation, feeling heard, constructively venting anger, and processing grief. Data collection and analyses will go on for years, but we are excited to share...


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