Integrating humanities in healthcare: a mixed-methods study for development and testing of a humanities curriculum for front-line health workers in Karachi, Pakistan

Danya Arif Siddiqi, Fatima Miraj, Mehr Munir, Nowshaba Naz, Asna Fatima Shaikh, Areeba Wajahat Khan, Shama Dossa, Inamullah Nadeem, Monica J. Hargraves, Jennifer Urban, Mubarak Taighoon Shah, Subhash Chandir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lady health workers (LHWs) provide lifesaving maternal and child health services to >60% of Pakistan’s population but are poorly compensated and overburdened. Moreover, LHWs’ training does not incorporate efforts to nurture attributes necessary for equitable and holistic healthcare delivery. We developed an interdisciplinary humanities curriculum, deriving its strengths from local art and literature, to enhance character virtues such as empathy and connection, interpersonal communication skills, compassion and purpose among LHWs. We tested the curriculum’s feasibility and impact to enhance character strengths among LHWs. We conducted a multiphase mixed-methods pilot study in two towns of Karachi, Pakistan. We delivered the humanities curriculum to 48 LHWs via 12 weekly sessions, from 15 June to 2 September 2021. We developed a multiconstruct character strength survey that was administered preintervention and postintervention to assess the impact of the training. In-depth interviews were conducted with a subset of randomly selected participating LHWs. Of 48 participants, 47 (98%) completed the training, and 34 (71%) attended all 12 sessions. Scores for all outcomes increased between baseline and endline, with highest increase (10.0 points, 95% CI 2.91 to 17.02; p=0.006) observed for empathy/connection. LHWs provided positive feedback on the training and its impact in terms of improving their confidence, empathy/ connection and ability to communicate with clients. Participants also rated the sessions highly in terms of the content’s usefulness (mean: 9.7/10; SD: 0.16), the success of the sessions (mean: 9.7/10; SD: 0.17) and overall satisfaction (mean: 8.2/10; SD: 3.3). A humanities-based training for front-line health workers is a feasible intervention with demonstrated impact of nurturing key character strengths, notably empathy/ connection and interpersonal communication. Evidence from this study highlights the value of a humanities-based training, grounded in local literature and cultural values, that can ultimately translate to improved well-being of LHWs thus contributing to better health outcomes among the populations they serve.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberarchdischild-2023-326267
JournalMedical Humanities
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


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