Arts for Health

What is “Arts for Health”?

Art and culture make a significant and joyful contribution to our health and well-being. The salutogenetic effect of art is part of our cultural history. Since the beginning of this century, Arts for Health has become an established term for artistic interventions that promote health and well-being in an integrative way. Arts for Health is a non-clinical, evidence-based intervention that focuses on the participatory, artistic process. Arts for Health does not claim to be of a therapeutic nature. Participants actively act as artists (in the making) and thus step out of being passive patients. Most of the Arts for Health initiatives are led by professional artists and are scientifically accompanied and evaluated.

Switch2Move CPD Day 2019

Arts for Health: A Work-in-Progress

Since the 1970s, artists have been increasingly involved in social processes. At the beginning of the new millennium, one aspect of this social engagement has manifested itself in a particularly sustainable way: art in the context of health and well-being. Social and natural scientists also began to address the individual and societal salutogenetic effects of art and culture. 

A preliminary high point was achieved with the publication of the World Health Organization (WHO): “What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and wellbeing” is a scoping review that summarizes the results of more than 3000 studies and presents the relevance of artistic interventions for the management and prevention of diseases. The report also addresses the fact that integrating arts and culture into public health can also yield economic benefits.

The now comprehensive evidence base on the impact of arts and culture on health has led several countries to integrate arts and culture into the public health system, even to the point of arts and culture being on health insurance, e.g. in the context of social prescribing. The EU has also anchored the role of arts and culture in its New Agenda. One of the three strategic goals is to use culture for social cohesion and well-being.

Arts for Health in Austria

Compared to other European countries, development in Austria lags behind considerably. While there are numerous dedicated and successful individual projects, there are no structures that present the big picture of “Arts for Health and Well-being”, connect stakeholders, lead to greater sustainability of individual initiatives and broader access for members of our society, and align artistic initiatives with the ever-growing body of research.

The discussion is ongoing, however, and was initiated by the Cultural Department of the BMKÖS in December 2019 with the workshop “Arts for Health”. The workshop was met with great interest with over 90 participants, artists, arts and health managers and was documented in an extensive event report. 

In another event organised by ARTS for HEALTH AUSTRIA and the Dance & Creative Wellness Foundation in cooperation with BMKÖS, the focus was on dance in the context of health and well-being. Approximately 150 artists, health care practitioners and stakeholders participated in the online forum “Dance – New Moves in Health Care”.

Both events were documented in extensive reports . In addition, the magazine „Kunst auf Rezept“ (Art on Prescription), was published in December 2019 by IG Kultur, in cooperation with the Federal Chancellery of Austria, Department for European and International Cultural Policy.