The South West Academic Health Science Network (SW AHSN) welcomes the publication of a new study by the World Health Organization (WHO) showing that participation in the arts can positively affect health.
The review, the world’s largest to date in this area, is a significant contribution to evidence in a pioneering area of work taking place in the South West around the value of self-care and community activity that makes people healthy.
The new paper reviews over 3,000 studies and highlights the importance of involving arts activities, such as hobbies, music and dance classes, in health delivery and policy. The arts are part of a range of local services and self-care activities which are being referred to nationally as social prescribing. This rapidly growing area of work provides patients and health and care professionals with activities within communities to complement conventional treatment or medication.
Lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt, associate professor of psychobiology & epidemiology at University College London, said in a UCL press release:
“Much of the research in this area has focused on the role of the arts in the treatment of illness... This report also highlights that engagement with the arts can affect social determinants of health, improving social cohesion and reducing social inequalities and inequities. Crucially, the arts can support the prevention of illness and promotion of good health.”
The SW AHSN launched its Institute for Social Prescribing in September to accelerate this new era in medicine. With several pioneering projects piloting in the South West, the Institute represents a commitment to tackling long-term illness, and the cost of health across the region through innovation at every level of patient support and care.
Dr Michael Dixon, a Devon GP and chair of the Institute for Social Prescribing, said:
“The evidence presented this week by the WHO corroborates that which we have seen in the South West, around the impact of social prescribing in the region. At the SW AHSN we want to celebrate what works for patients, their families and carers. We see this as about changing perception and practice. Prevention and wellbeing within our communities – not just healthcare in GP surgeries and hospitals.”
As an organisation leading the way in the spread of evidence and good practice in social prescribing, the SW AHSN is delighted to see the recommendations resulting from the research paper released this week to:
- Acknowledge the growing evidence base for the role of the arts in improving health and wellbeing, including through sharing knowledge of what works.
- Recognise the added health value of engagement with the arts, and enabling diverse forms of art.
- Note the cross-sectoral nature of the arts and health field. Ultimately, that we should support this area of work in the training of health care professionals.
For the announcement and summary of the WHO report from University College London: What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being? A scoping review (Health Evidence Network Synthesis Report 67) by Daisy Fancourt and Saoirse Finn
For the WHO report itself, see page 55 for the authors policy considerations based on the evidence presented.
For an introduction to our Institute for Social Prescribing and leading pilots taking place in Ilfracombe, St Austell, Frome and Cullompton through the SW AHSN, see our webpage.