arts and health Conference Report Finnish approaches to wellbeing Healthcare Policy Social Inclusion

International Culture Policy: Workshop on New Health Policies in Austria

Last week, the Arts and Culture Division of the Austrian Federal Chancellery welcomed the participation of 100 people from the cultural and health sectors to a workshop to develop arts and health policies.


Led by the EU expert group on culture and social inclusion, the workshop in Vienna followed the November publication of the World Health Organisation’s Arts and Health Scoping Review, described as “a watershed moment”, by Johanna Vuolasto from Finland. Johanna has led Finland’s five-year Key Project to embed the arts and culture into health and social care.  Her presentation featured Finland’s Recommendation for Improving the Availability and Accessibility of the Arts and Culture in Social Welfare and Health Care – Including Health Promotion, and Johanna shared the pragmatic ways in which the Finns have implemented this work package at the national level, to  support the OMC to start new processes in Austria.

World Café: What Can You Do?

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Johanna Vuolasto, Team leader of Finland’s development program ‘Use of Art in well-being and inclusion’ facilitating a table at the World Café style workshop






Kathrin Kneissel, Head of Department for International and European Culture Policy in the Federal Chancellery of Austria, chaired the workshop and asked important questions for decision-makers, such as can the use of the arts save money? And how much?

At interactive tables, delegates focussed on identifying next steps for individuals in each sector (artists, researchers, health professionals, and politicians), so that Kathrin and her team can begin to develop an arts and health work package at the EU level.

Together, presenters and delegates identified many actions, including:

  • Support scientific research: demonstrate impact and secure long-term sustainable funding for research
  • Value lived experience
  • Work on destigmatisation, for example through developing emotional literacy among population
  • Increase access – only 50% of people who require mental health support seek help
  • Promote Artist in Residencies to support person-centred care
  • Intersectoral funding schemes: develop and co-fund cross-sector formal partnerships and programmes using existing examples such as those in Finland’s Key Project and in Greater Manchester Children’s Services
  • Make changes to federal system laws that currently hinder co-ordinated policies.
    Finland have outlined 2 measures towards this:
    Measure 1: Improve access to basic art education and children’s culture currently not available to all in every part of the country.
    Measure 2: Extend the principle of investing up to 1% of the construction costs of public buildings in the acquisition of works of art in cooperation with the social welfare and healthcare sector in order to support the welfare impacts of the art
  • A report from the day will be issued in January 2020  

How is the evidence and progress guiding decision-makers?

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Based on research identifying a ‘dose response effect’ of around two hours per week, Finland’s  campaign to take #100minutesofart encourages people to regularly engage in cultural activities

Presenting recommendations of the EU expert group, Barbara Stüwe-Eßl was clear that the arts can help reduce medication use, a key point of my own presentation – and an aim of Greater Manchester’s Arts and Mental Health Innovation Programme. Barbara reminded us of significant savings related to prevention of years lost to disability: numerous well-designed studies have shown that participatory arts (for example, dance classes, and singing) can help manage increasing complexities in the aging population, and chronic conditions for which there are no cures.

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In the panel session, Johannes Gregoritsch, lawyer in Austrian Social Security, shared his view outdated definitions of health and illness and the ‘expert model’ inhibit innovation. We had already been reminded by a practitioner from the Austrian Dance Medicine Group that health happens everywhere. Johnannes responded that “Only physicians can look after health” – to which my interpreter added “sarcastic comment.”












The arts can be helpful in:

– Supporting flexibility, motor skills and balance
– Improved health outcomes and treatment duration with Clown Doctors (see Red Noses International)
– Cognitive benefits, for instance increased fluency in dementia after art-viewing
– Addressing loneliness and social isolation
– Pre and post, perioperative stress reduction (the Top Med Talk podcast focuses on this)
– Engaging disenfranchised or vulnerable youth: we heard about music programme El Sistema in Venezuala and Scotland
– Support and stress reduction for professional care givers, families and loved ones
– Improving communication and thus safety of clinical environments

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A partnership between Finland’s TAIKE: Art Promotion Centre, and Dawn Prescott, Director at LIME Arts, Manchester

A report from the day will be issued in January 2020 and I will post a link here, along with further articles written by presenters at the workshop published in IG Kultur Magazine. 

* All photographs in this post copyright @Austrian Federal Chancellery. *

I live in Lancaster and work in Lancaster & Morecambe CAMHS as a senior clinical psychologist, and across Greater Manchester managing the new Arts, Culture and Mental Health programme with GM i-THRIVE, part of the national transformation of children's services. This blog began to help record and share my 2017 Churchill Travelling Fellowship, following a research role at Arts for Health, Manchester Metropolitan University. My work in the field of arts and well-being came about in many converging ways. As a child I was interested in emotional well-being, and worked in mental health research as a graduate. I began clinical psychology training in 2010, and for my thesis studied the role of creativity in bipolar disorder, because of the known links, and partly due to my own experiences of engaging creatively to manage extremes of mood throughout my 20s. I have worked in several university psychology research departments including the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research at Lancaster University, notable for its service user involvement, and on the Dementia & Imagination research programme.

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