WHO report releases global evidence on role of the arts in improving health and wellbeing

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released a report consolidating global evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and wellbeing, with a particular focus on the WHO European Region. Results from more than 3,000 studies identified a major role for the arts in the prevention of ill health, promotion of health, and management and treatment of illness across the lifespan.
 
The report outlines policy considerations for decision-makers in the health sector and beyond, such as:
ensure the availability and accessibility of arts-for-health programmes within communities;
support arts and cultural organizations in making health and well-being part of their work;
promote public awareness of the potential health benefits of arts engagement;
include arts in the training of health-care professionals;
introduce or strengthen referral mechanisms from health- or social-care facilities to arts programmes or activities; and
invest in more research, particularly in scaling up arts and health interventions, and evaluating their implementation.
 
Dr Piroska Östlin, WHO Regional Director for Europe a.i., said:
 
“The examples cited in this groundbreaking WHO report show ways in which the arts can tackle ‘wicked’ or complex health challenges such as diabetes, obesity and mental ill health. They consider health and well-being in a broader societal and community context, and offer solutions that common medical practice has so far been unable to address effectively.”
 
Daisy Fancourt, associate professor of Psychobiology & Epidemiology at University College London and co-author of the report, said:
 
“Certainly the arts are not a panacea - the report highlights a number of null and even harmful findings too - and we still have a long way to go to realise the potential benefits of the arts for supporting individual health and the work of our national health service. But given both the growing evidence base, and the recognised need to embrace new approaches within healthcare, it feels timely to be exploring ways to embed the arts more firmly within public health prevention schemes and within clinical care.”
 
The report can be read in full here.