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International culture policy: workshop on new health policies in Austria

Report from my Keynote at the Austrian Federal Chancellery workshop, where 100 people met to develop arts and health policies.

Last week, the Arts and Culture Division of the Austrian Federal Chancellery welcomed 100 people from the cultural and health sectors to participate in a workshop in Vienna, to progress arts and health policies. I was reunited with colleagues from Finland and through our keynotes supported further progress in policy and practice in the EU region.


 New focus in Austria

The workshop in Vienna aimed to build on the November publication of the World Health Organisation’s Arts and Health Scoping Review, described as “a watershed moment”, by Johanna Vuolasto. 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 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, asked important questions for decision-makers, such as can the use of the arts save money? And how much?

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, Culture and Mental Health 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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Opening the workshop

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 posted in 2020, 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'm a British clinical psychologist with a research background. I manage the Greater Manchester i-THRIVE Arts, Culture and Mental Health Programme, part of the national transformation of children's services. I also have an NHS clinical role in Lancaster and Morecambe working with children, young people and families (CAMHS). I began this blog in 2017 to record a WCMT Travelling Fellowship, from a research role at Arts for Health, Manchester Metropolitan University. I began clinical psychology training (DCLinPsy, Lancaster) in 2010, and studied the role of creativity in bipolar disorder, because of the known links, and partly due to my own experiences of creatively managing extremes of mood in adolescence and throughout my 20s. I have worked in several university psychology research departments including Manchester University in suicide prevention, the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research at Lancaster University (notable for service user expertise), and on the Dementia & Imagination research programme.

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