Culture and the arts contribute substantially to people’s health and wellbeing. In times of a global health crisis, this topic is increasingly more pertinent. In this context, arts and culture could positively contribute and support existing efforts to manage the crisis. It is particularly important in playing an affirmative role towards prevention of psychological and emotional stress and strains and other negative health implications such as the lack of movement and physical activity.
The workshop “Arts for Health”, hosted by the BKA, on the 5th of December in 2019 began the first discussions around this essential topic in Austria. Despite occasional initiatives and existing efforts, arts in the context of health and wellbeing has neither received awareness from the broad public nor sufficient appreciation from the cultural and health sectors. The current lack of structural support for health-related initiatives in Austria are at the core of matters and concerns leading to the establishment of the association Arts for Health Austria.
The Association ARTS for HEALTH AUSTRIA(AfHA), which stands for the promotion of Arts-Interventions in the context of Health and Wellbeing, intends to address these structural shortcomings.
AfHA will act as a platform for arts activities in the public health sector in Austria, as an interface between artists, researchers and health institutions as well as an international networking instrument and contact point for everyone interested in this field.
Currently, debates and discussions regarding arts-interventions in health care are in the beginning stages in Austria. The initiatives of Arts for Health Austria will refer to the experiences of existing international institutions with similar objectives and goals. The proponents of AfHA are well connected internationally and intend to develop concepts and activities in close cooperation with like-minded organizations across the globe. The Forum ‘Dance – New Moves in Health Care’ on the 11th of December 2020, hosted by the Dance & Creative Wellness Foundation, is the first event organized and co-hosted by Arts for Health Austria.
As part of the forum, a spectrum of objectives and goals are going to be presented to the public:
- Platform for arts-initiatives in the public health sector in Austria
- Point of interface connecting the arts with science
- International networking body
- Source of information for interested parties
- Funding of innovative arts projects in health care
Background for the Forum “Dance – New Moves in Health Care”
Art, dance and health
On the 11th of November 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) presented their evidence report on the subject of art, health and wellbeing: “What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and wellbeing?”. This report is a scoping review of approximately 3700 studies, and provides an overview of the state of research and summarizes the results. It found evidence of the potential value of the arts from a variety of disciplinary approaches and methods that can play a critical role in health promotion. The benefits of art can be seen in the prevention as well as in the management and treatment of diseases. A large number of studies confirm the positive effects on mental health, social and individual wellbeing, and social cohesion.
In addition to the positive effects that the practice of art has on health, the economic benefits are important.
In coping with the illnesses and psychological stress caused by social isolation during the corona crisis, artistic interventions can play a key role in improvement and recovery.
Dance plays a special role in this discussion, as it encompasses both the aesthetic-artistic and the physical level. Dance programs contribute successfully to wellbeing with respect to diseases of civilization such as obesity, neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s, MS, dementia or Alzheimer’s as well as in dealing with psychological and mental stress.
Art as a medical indication of health and wellbeing is already recognized in the public health system of some European countries, for example, Great Britain and Finland. In Austria, we are at the beginning of the debate that was put into motion at the end of last year with the “Arts for Health” workshop that was hosted by the Department for European and international cultural policy in the Ministry of Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport. At this time, IG Kultur published the magazine “Culture as a recipe”, which presents initiatives in Austria and international perspectives.
A few projects are taking place in the Austrian dance scene already: for the elderly, people with Parkinson’s or dementia.
The Vienna State Ballet has already co-organized several workshops with Andrew Greenwood, founder of Switch2Move, for the continuous professional development of ensemble members in social dance work.
Dance & Creative Wellness Foundation
In a climate of global health epidemics and an aging population, institutions such as the World Health Organization, the World Economic Forum and the EU Health Strategy are calling for innovation and quantum leaps in health. Dance & Creative Wellness Foundation partners believe that dance plays an important role in solving these problems.
The annual forums it runs are think tanks and platforms for brainstorming and debating. They bring together important stakeholders – dance institutions, practitioners, healthcare innovators, health insurers and political decision-makers – to explain and discuss the field of dance for health and wellbeing in a lively exchange of ideas and experiences.
The Dance & Creative Wellness Foundation was established by Clare Guss-West, Andrew Greenwood and Eldridge Labinjo in 2016 with the support of the Dutch National Ballet & Opera, where the first forum took place. The following dance and creative wellness forums took place in collaboration with renowned hosts such as Staatsballett Berlin (Germany), Sadler’s Wells & Rambert (London, UK), Ballet Preljocaj (Avignon, France) and Konzert Theater Bern (Switzerland).
The Directorate Team of the Dance & Creative Wellness Foundation was invited by the European Parliament in Brussels in 2019 to present dance as a proactive response to public health problems.