Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing Report

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Thu, 27/7/2017

On 19 July 2017 the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing, co-chaired by former arts ministers Lord Howarth and Ed Vaizey MP, launched its Inquiry Report, “Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing”. Our Director of Music Services, Simon Procter, was present at Portcullis House for the launch, and writes below:

The launch saw a range of both service providers and service users (including service users turned providers) giving inspiring examples of their own experiences. The report is an overview of current practice around the UK and includes descriptions of a wide range of artistic and creative activities, as well as pulling together evidence for the contributions that the arts can make to people’s experience of health and wellbeing. It makes ten recommendations, which could be both quick to implement, and effect important cultural change in the current health and wellbeing environment. These include establishing a philanthropically supported national centre (to support the advance of good practice, collaboration, research and the influencing of policy and delivery), government working more effectively across departments to support the delivery of health and wellbeing through the arts and culture, NHS organisations having named people responsible for arts, health and wellbeing policy, and more content about the role of the arts in the training of health professionals.

Of course, one of the challenges for anyone wishing to drive this kind of work forward is that “arts” is a very broad term. This breadth is evident in the report, not just in terms of art forms, but also in terms of understandings of their ways of being useful. Another challenge mentioned at the launch, is that opportunities that already exist for social prescribing of the arts and cultural activities are not being taken up by potential prescribers. Going forward then, a key consideration will be how to effectively utilise the arts as a resource for wellbeing, removing barriers to recognition and entry, and how to make services sustainable if and when they do face greater demand.

Nordoff Robbins was pleased to be able to contribute to the process that led to the production of this report and we enthusiastically welcome the report itself. As an organisation, we see ourselves as partners with a huge range of musicians around the UK who are committed to bringing the health and wellbeing benefits of music-making to as many people as possible. Our own contribution to this is focused on people who find these opportunities hardest to access and we see the Nordoff Robbins approach to music therapy as a means not only of helping people to address and live well with profound and life-changing challenges (including mental illness, learning disabilities, autism, dementia, brain injury and terminal illness) but also of broadening opportunities for musical participation to the very people who stand to gain most from them but are least likely to be able to access them otherwise.

Part of our work in recent years has been to drive the musical pathways outwards from music therapy itself into sustained engagement (or re-engagement) with music in pursuit of wellbeing, seeing music therapy as one small (but crucial) part of people’s enduring musical life stories. There are so many stories of music being a fundamental source of identity, of relationship and of resilience, with skilled intervention and re-connection being needed at times of crisis.

Three hearty cheers for the APPG’s report, with its call for an increased role for the arts in healthcare and wellbeing. An extra cheer on top of that for the outstanding level and positive tone of media coverage that has been generated around the launch of the report. And a fervent yes to more arts opportunities of every kind for people facing health and wellbeing challenges. The arts are and have always been a means of people discovering, creating and sharing identity, of experiencing community and solidarity, of building social capital, as well as of experiencing health and wellness. So rather than just considering how the arts can aid recovery, let’s also make the case for musical (and more generally creative) engagement in everyday life, to help transform the way we approach our own health and care. In other words, music for health – not just for illness.