I am often asked what ‘arts and health’ means and why we should integrate creativity into health (I prefer to use the word creativity as ‘art’ often conjures up pictures of, well just that – pictures on walls). Arts in health is so much more than pictures on walls or sculptures in hallways. Arts in health can be a wide array of things – poetry, dance, meditation, writing, drawing, flash mobs, choirs… the scope is as wide as our imagination.
There is a huge amount of clinical research which proves just how much positive impact creative projects can have, these include
• reduced stress experienced by patients, families and staff
• reduced drug consumption
• decreased recovery times
• shortened hospital stays
• improved patient management
• improvements in clinical outcomes
• enhanced quality of service provision
• improvements in staff job satisfaction and well-being
• improved the healthcare experiences for everyone
Jane Collins, previous CEO of Great Ormond Street Hospital London was once asked by a major donor ‘Can we afford to have art in hospitals?’ to which she simple replied ‘We can’t afford not to have art in our hospital’
Creative projects can be used to assist in the care of patients and used to tackle specific medical conditions. A wonderful example of this is Breathe Magic – scaled and adapted magic tricks taught to children and young people as an effective rehabilitation for conditions such as hemiplegia, stroke or brain injury, see www.breatheahr.org. Creative projects can also be developed to promote important health messaging such as hand hygiene campaigns.
I’ve worked in the field of arts and health for many years now, over this time I have seen this sector grow and go from strength to strength. In the UK arts in health has the support of the NHS and the government. In Australia this is still an emerging area which some visionary healthcare providers are beginning to engage with.
With so much potential benefit to be gained it begs the question – why wouldn’t we integrate creativity into healthcare?