An Arts-Based Educational Exhibit on Menopausal Hot Flashes

Janet S. Carpenter, PhD, RN, FAAN; Mark Kesling, BS, MS; Karen K. Schmidt, MSN, RN


Menopause. 2019;26(9):1062-1067. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Objective: The aim of this study was to describe the development process, science, and symbolism of an arts-based educational exhibit designed to address myths, misinformation, negative imagery, and use of unproven treatments related to menopausal hot flashes.

Methods: The development process included iterative and informal feedback from a variety of individuals, a partnership with an experienced exhibit designer, and collaborations between artists and scientists.

Results: The resulting exhibit creates an environment where the public is immersed in accurate information about hot flashes. Although based on an iterative process, the resulting exhibit content reflects an estimated 500+ scientific studies, including those referenced in The North American Menopause Society position statements on hormone and nonhormone management of hot flashes. The seven main exhibit pieces convey scientific information and symbolize various aspects of women's experiences.

Conclusions: This innovative exhibit has high potential to be a disruptive innovation to address the preponderance of myths, misinformation, and negative imagery surrounding menopausal hot flashes and potentially decrease the use of unproven therapies.


Menopausal hot flashes (ie, night sweats, vasomotor symptoms) are a global issue. These everyday symptoms will affect 75% of women,[1] or about 21 million women living in the United States today and 1.1 billion women around the world by 2025.[1–5] The sudden rush of heat and sweating that defines hot flashes lasts only minutes, but these symptoms typically persist for 7 years (range = 0 to 15+ y).[1,6]

There is a preponderance of myths, misinformation, and negative imagery surrounding menopausal hot flashes. Confusion about hot flashes is the norm.[7–11] Although many cultures use school health education classes as a forum for teaching young girls about the changes of adolescence and the onset of menses, no similar forum exists for teaching midlife women or others about the cessation of menses. Women are responsible for seeking information themselves and frequently encounter myths and misinformation.[8,12,13] Available information can portray menopause as a loss or disease of hormone deficiencies and hot flashes as dreadful signs of aging,[14–17] imaginary, taboo, and/or a joke.[18,19] Studies show that many women (1) do not get the information they need and are confused about treatment options,[20–23] and (2) have partners who are also confused or do not know how to support them.[11,24] In addition, use of unproven therapies at menopause/postmenopause is a pervasive issue.[25,26]

To innovatively address these problems and create a new and more balanced collective image of menopausal hot flashes, we turned to the creative arts. The creative arts represent a unique way to challenge old truths, motivate dialogue and social action around an issue, and build a new collective, public image of a topic.[27,28] The creative arts can convey a large amount of highly specialized and nuanced information in a succinct, compassionate, and understandable manner.[28,29] The arts are capable of reaching highly diverse audiences, surpassing age, sex, socioeconomic, and other sociocultural boundaries as well as boundaries of artistic knowledge or preference.[30,31] By engaging multiple sensory channels, the creative arts generate an embodied experience and can promote learning and changes in behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes.[28,32–36] Using the creative arts in this manner is called arts-based science education, arts-based knowledge translation, arts-based dissemination of science, and educational entertainment. Thus, it seemed appropriate to use the arts as the platform for addressing the problem.

Our arts-based exhibit is an educational resource for the public, which we define to include postmenopausal women, healthcare providers, and other men and women (teens to adults). The exhibit aims to convey accurate information, quell myths and misinformation, normalize menopause as a natural stage of reproductive aging, and possibly decrease use of unproven therapies. In this paper, we describe methods in the exhibit's development process and its resulting science and symbolism.