How can arts and culture help improve health and wellbeing?

Author: Georgia Morris

Marking Creativity and Wellbeing Week, our Health Partnerships Strategic Manager, Richard Boggie, shares some thoughts about the role of arts and culture in health and wellbeing.

Decorative graphic reading 'How can arts and culture help improve health and wellbeing?' with a photograph of Richard Boggie, NENC VCSE health partnerships strategic manager smiling.

“As someone who works in VCSE Health Partnerships, and as a creative practitioner myself, this is a topic that floats my boat on both the port and starboard sides.

“I think there are a few reasons why creativity plays such an important role in supporting people’s health and wellbeing: 

  • It provides engaging and effective ways to get across health information – the sort of information that can otherwise be complex, dull, and confusing. Creative practitioners are experts in communication and frankly, health professionals are often not.
  • It also offers individuals a range of opportunities to express their own needs and wants. Not everyone can cope with a medical questionnaire or explain to a GP what’s wrong. But through creative projects with trusted organisations, we can start to build confidence and share. I have found this myself, through poetry and performing spoken word, I can share my experiences of sight loss much better than if you asked me to explain it to a doctor.
  • Vitally, creativity helps us connect with others. Isolation is hugely damaging and is a serious factor in people’s physical and mental health. Connecting through art and culture is a fantastic boost and can help us feel part of something in our community. That’s something a course of tablets will never achieve.
  • And finally it gets us involved and usually, if done well, it’s great fun. Let’s face it life can be bloody hard and spending time doing something we enjoy is so important.

“I also know that we have a fantastic arts and culture sector in this region – practitioners with great expertise, brilliant facilitators with great imagination, empathy, and people skills. We should be bringing those skills to bear on our huge health challenges.”

Two examples of the ways in which creativity is used to support health and wellbeing can be found in these spotlight articles: Helix Arts in North Tyneside and Anime on Prescription in Hartlepool, two of our Infrastructure Investment Programme projects, supported through funding from the ICB and delivered by VCSEs. 

And since we’re in creative mode, if you’d like to hear more about social prescribing, check out this fab spoken word piece from the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP), written and performed by spoken word artist Kamal Ellis- Hyman.

To further support this work, VONNE has created a new Creative Health Resources web page, to help guide both providers and users of arts and culture work in health and care towards useful resources and information. If this work interests you, you can sign up here to our Healthy Communities and Social Prescribing Network, to receive further updates on the latest social prescribing news for the North East and North Cumbria.

Reflecting on this week. Richard said, “I’m looking forward to more conversations over the coming months, to see how we can nurture a thriving creative health sector that benefits us all.”