Last week a report was published that filled me with happiness. Why? Because it recognises just how useful the arts can be in helping us to heal, stay healthy and to thrive. Writing, painting, music, dance and more… they all have a role to play.
We’ve known for a long time that the arts can help us to feel better. I say ‘we’. By that I mean the knowledge has been out there. It has been embraced by a large number of individuals and organisations who have links with the arts and health. But, for various reasons, it has not become part of our society’s general consciousness. Could that be about to change?
The time has come to recognise the powerful contribution the arts can make to our health and wellbeing.
Rt Hon. Lord Howarth of Newport
Co-Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing.
Last week’s report, Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing, is the culmination of two years’ worth of research by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing. The Group gathered information from patients, health and social care professionals, artists and arts administrators, academics, and various individuals working within and alongside government. The full report (which I’m still digesting) is teeming with facts & figures, case studies, insights from experts, and quotes from individuals who have experienced the arts in action.
I was encouraged to see the report hitting the headlines…
- Prescribe poetry to patients to reduce burden on NHS, GPs advised (Telegraph)
- Arts can help recovery from illness and keep people well, report says (Guardian)
- Poetry and painting… on the NHS: Doctors advised to send patients to classes to help boost their health (Daily Mail)
The headlines above focus on ‘arts on prescription’*, which was one aspect of the Creative Health report. There’s more to it, of course. But perhaps the wheels of change might begin to turn a bit faster now. In the future, a visit to your GP could result in a poetry workshop or dance class. Sound strange? I urge you to keep an open mind!
The arts aren’t a cure for everything. They can’t replace modern medicine, but they can provide support. They can offer a different kind of nurturing. Perhaps you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results. I hope so. I think we’ll all feel the benefits, if we give the arts a chance.
*What is ‘arts on prescription’?
As explained in the Creative Health report, arts on prescription involves people who are ‘experiencing psychological or physical distress being referred (or referring themselves) to engage with the arts in the community (including galleries, museums and libraries).’