Between June 19th and 21st, Bristol’s Culture, Health and Wellbeing International Conference 2017 saw 400 people from 22 countries present, debate and inspire change in research, policy and practice.
Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England, outlined the multiple ways in which the arts can promote recovery and, importantly, prevent illness in the first place. He boldly stated that attempts to fix the health of the nation with a focus on treatment via the NHS are, quite simply, “not going to work,” and called for a preventative approach that aspires to better health outcomes through positive lifestyle choices.
The impact of arts and culture might appear weak in the face of vast and complex problems. But with broad contexts in mind, alongside the contents of this conference and of my recent trip to witness the significant progression Finland has seen in the last decade, I am feeling a need to celebrate that the field of arts for health is a burgeoning, evidence-based field that is currently being mobilised in the UK for the purposes outlined by Mr Selbie. It might seem that this agenda emphasises a playful or non-serious approach to serious problems. However, I, the Finnish Government, and many others fervently believe that an emphasis on arts and culture towards wellbeing could transform and save lives – and the evidence is building.
I was thrilled to see mirrored my own belief that action and change is imminent in a blog by Head of Research at Liverpool’s Institute for Cultural Capital Kerry Wilson, who wrote: “this was not a defensive community of interest preaching to the converted, but a proactive community of practice ready to lobby and campaign.”
Arts, Health and Wellbeing: Creative Health Report
On 19th July, the All-party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Arts Health and Wellbeing will formally launch a report from Westminster. The report will provide a comprehensive review and state that there is strong evidence that the arts:
- Keep us well
- Aid recovery
- Support longer lives better lived
In anticipation of this report, there’s a beautiful and hopeful article in the Guardian today, whose author states that “all over the country… it’s happening at a macro- and a micro-level.”
Rt Hon Lord Howarth of Newport, Chair of the APPG, presented findings and recommendations from the Creative Health report in his conference keynote speech. Lord Howarth shared his conviction that health and social care must be led by values, and that the ‘arts and health movement will be instrumental’ in fostering change.
What are the links between the arts and wellbeing?
In a health context
The main 5 ills are obesity, heart disease, mental health difficulties, cancer and dementia. Mental health difficulties also form a significant part of the picture.
Key Priorities of the World Health Organisation are to reduce the number of people who develop these conditions.
Lifestyle is the key factor in their development, and behaviour change can be targeted through educating (and inspiring) people to prevent much of it.
Poverty underlies health inequalities.
Relationships are a major predictor of poor health and loneliness has been shown to be more deadly than smoking.
Meaningful activity is another of the big fish we need to be catching before they get stuck in a net that then takes many resources to get it out and lively again – when a person reaches crisis point.
Poor health is a result of poor wellbeing predicted by the above.
The arts are a unique vehicle shown to improve individual and community well-being by targeting behaviour via a number of routes.
And this relates mainly to prevention of illness – evidence suggests the arts also foster recovery (this is another post coming soon that I am really looking forward to!).
5 Ways to Wellbeing
- Be active
- Take notice
- Keep learning
It is easy to see how each of these can be facilitated by the arts and cultural participation.
Chairing The Big Debate on what next for arts and health research were Dr Daisy Fancourt (whose work and Early Career Researchers Network will feature in my next blog!), Professor Norma Daykin and Professor Paul Camic.
Expertly fielding a number of questions, the take home message was that there are crucial roles for varied research strategies; indeed attention to mixed methods is the only suitable approach to understanding complex and subjective phenomena. We must collaborate with commissioners and policy makers – who need science on which to base their decisions – on those outcomes we can measure, and at the same time offer caution about the the limits of the medical model and its (in)ability to capture everything we should be interested in.
The next post to follow immediately today, will include further highlights from the conference.
Recommendations for the field included:
- The creation of a national network and strategic centre to co-ordinate stakeholders, practitioners, and researchers.
- The provision of training and development for health and social care professionals, and for artists and arts practitioners, in hybrid and cross-sector working.
- The development of a shared language is needed in line with the above.
- To connect existing networks between and across the different sectors including successful collaborations between healthcare and arts, museums, heritage, and libraries.
- To inform public debates with respect to health and wellbeing.
I was hugely encouraged by the international leadership evident throughout the conference, the active political perspective taken, and the presence of practitioners and researchers committed to generating and sharing a quality evidence base. There is strong sense of collective purpose and action, and the publication of the APPG Creative Health report will be further instrumental in promoting the arts and health field toward informing practice and policy.
I do hope you, dear readers, will continue to share this journey, which I document in the hope that others will take motivation from the activity and progress the arts in health field.
Coming later this week… I will post a very short blog about the Arts in Health Early Career Researchers Network, led by Dr Daisy Fancourt, one of 10 BBC New Generation Thinkers 2017.
for more resources check out the Library page here, and Publications
A conference video is available here.
Exploring the Longitudinal Relationship Between Arts Engagement and Health, by Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt of the APPG.
A recent comprehensive survey of 7,537 Australians gives robust figures on arts participation and preferences.
The Evidence Library is an online library housing the key research and evaluation documents on the impact of arts-based projects, programmes and interventions within the Criminal Justice System.
Organisations and Further Documents
- Arthur and Martha – Stockport based Arts and Health project www.arthur-and-martha.co.uk
- Arts and Health South West – Raising the profile and influencing the development of the Arts and Health sector across the South West of England. www.artsandhealthsouthwest.org.uk
- Blue SCI – Arts and Health based in Trafford, Manchester www.bluesci.org.uk
- Creative Remedies – Arts and Health across the West Midlands www.creativeremedies.org.uk
- Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) – Government organisation responsible for the arts, sport, tourism, libraries, museums and galleries. www.culture.gov.uk
- Department of Health – Government organisation responsible for health and social care policy, guidance and publications. www.dh.gov.uk
- Lime – Manchester based organisation that uses creative activity to impact on individual health, bringing culture and the arts into Greater Manchester’s healthcare system via the work of a multi-disciplined group of professional artists. www.limeart.org
- London Arts and Health Forum – London based networking organisation for health and arts professionals and health related organisations. www.lahf.com
- Paintings in Hospitals – Founded in 1959 the organisation aims to improve the environment of hospitals and other healthcare establishments by providing original works of art on loan. www.paintingsinhospitals.org.uk
- Start in Manchester www.startmc.org.uk
- Start in Salford www.startinsalford.org.uk
- Willis Newson – Bristol based arts consultancy specialising in health care and the built environment. www.willisnewson.co.uk
Downloadable Reports and Documents
- Arts Equal: Improving Older People’s Lives Through Creativity: Annual Report National Forum on Arts and Health Report – Commissioned by the London Arts in Health Forum and the Regional Partners Group final_national_forum_report.pdf
- Prospectus of Arts and Health – A prospectus produced jointly by the Department of Health and Arts Council England. Promotes the benefits of the arts in improving everyone’s wellbeing, health and healthcare, and in its role in supporting those who work in and with the National Health Service. www.artscouncil.org.uk/publication_archive/a-prospectus-for-arts-and-health/
- The Arts Council Arts and Health Strategy – The Arts Councils first national strategy for the arts, health and wellbeing. www.artscouncil.org.uk/publication_archive/the-arts-health-and-well-being/
- Invest to Save: Arts in Health – Three year HM Treasury funded project aimed at strengthening the capacity of the North West regions Arts and Health community through networking and training opportunities and building the evidence base as to the effectiveness of creativity, culture and the arts on health and economic outcomes. www.miriad.mmu.ac.uk/investtosave
- Rosalia Staricoff (2004) Arts in Health: a review of the medical literature. www.canterbury.ac.uk/centres/sidney-de-haan-research/staricoff-rosalia.asp
- Voluntary Arts Network – Artists in Hospitals: Guidelines for the voluntary arts www.voluntaryarts.org/uploaded/map1656.pdf
- The Baring Foundation – Ageing Artfully: Older People and Professional Participatory Arts in the UK www.baringfoundation.org.uk/AgeingArtfully.pdf
** New report available soon **
- APU/UCLAN Research Team (2005) – Mental health, social inclusion and arts: developing the evidence base. Final report from Phase 1: The state of the art in England www.socialinclusion.org.uk/publications/Phase 1 report.pdf
- Liverpool 08 European Capital of Culture: Mental Well-Being Impact Assessment, Executive Summary www.liv.ac.uk/ihia
- John Angus and CAHHM Health Development Agency (2002) – A review of evaluation in community-based art for health activity in the UK www.dur.ac.uk
- Five Ways to Wellbeing – A report presented to the Foresight Project on communicating the evidence base for improving people’s well-being Five Ways to Well-being Evidence 1.pdf
- Measuring the value of culture: a report to the Department for Culture Media and Sport – Dr Dave O’Brien, AHRC/ESRC Placement Fellow measuring-the-value-culture-report.pdf
- National Forum on Arts and Health Report – Commissioned by the London Arts in Health Forum and the Regional Partners Group final_national_forum_report.pdf
- Goodlet, Sharon, Visual arts and older people: Exploring best practice Churchill Fellowship Report 2015 http://www.lahf.org.uk/sites/default/files/Goodlet%20S%20Report%202015%20Final.pdf