1. What is arts and health?
"Arts and health" is a phrase used to indicate many diverse fields of endeavor which all have some arts-based component that are pursued with the recognition they have been demonstrated to have a positive impact on health - individual and community, and on the effectiveness of health care. A browse through the Canadian Initiatives section of this web site will give you some idea of the scope of activities that are encompassed by "arts and health". Reading materials on the Arts and Health 101 section will introduce you to some of the evidence of the contributions of arts-based activities to health. Our infographic developed in 2013 provides an excellent graphical description of Arts & Health. A version of the infographic is also available in French.
2. What is the relationship between "arts & health" and the practice of creative arts therapies?
An oversimplified answer to the question is that all the various types of creative arts therapies (art, music, drama, dance/movement, poetry/bibliotherapy) are undertaken with a specific therapeutic intent. Those who practice the various art therapies have many years of training and supervised practice and have met the requirements of their associations to become accredited therapists. Arts & health practitioners are usually artists who offer similar types of arts-based activities for the general benefit of both individuals and communities. At this time, there is no formal training or credential requirements to offer arts & health programs. One can think of the creative arts therapies as engaging in the arts to address specific therapeutic goals. Whereas arts and health programs seek to engage people in the arts for many other reasons including enjoyment, education, entertainment, distraction from illness and pain relief, social connection, self-exploration, etc. while also recognizing there will likely be some therapeutic benefits of this creative engagement. There are many over laps between creative arts therapies and arts and heath programs, and creative arts therapists often partner with artists in arts and health program development and implementation.
3. Is there any evidence that arts actually benefits health?
There is a huge amount of both experience and research available in the United Kingdom, Western Europe, the United States, Australia and elsewhere that clearly documents the positive, and often powerful, impact of arts-based activities on individual health, on community health, and on both diagnosis and treatment in health care. For some examples of the kind of research available, check out our account on Mendelely with over 1000 published research articles. You'll also find good information on the Arts and Health 101 and Resources section of the site.
4. Are arts & health programs more expensive than regular health programs?
The cost of arts & health programs will depend on many factors, and to date, there have not been many cost-benefit analysis studies conducted - it is certainly an area needing more investigation. One of the most exciting aspects of the use of arts in health is the tremendous potential to reduce the demand on the health care system through prevention efforts, and the potential to reduce the cost of some aspects of health care. For example, it has been demonstrated and documented in the United States that a once a week arts course run by a professional artist can keep seniors living independently longer and thus out of much more expensive care facilities; can reduce their use of medications; reduce the number of visits to doctors; improve their physical and mental health; while increasing their quality of life (ref). In hospitals, the use of music has been shown to shorten the length of stay of premature infants in neonatal intensive care units; to reduce the use of pain and mood-altering medications in patients; and to reduce the time to complete certain types of procedures, while increasing the rate of successful completions (ref).
5. Are there any arts & health programs in my area?
The Canadian Initiatives section lists programs and organizations active in arts and health by province. Check out your province to see what might be nearby. The Events section lists events and conferences across Canada.
6. How can I get involved in arts and health?
One of the first things you can do is join this network. That will begin to put you in touch with others across the country who are active and interested in various aspects of arts and health. It will also give you access to up to date information as to what is happening across the country. If you are looking for a program to participate in, check the Canadian Initiatives and Events sections of this web site to see what might be happening in your area of the country. If you are interested in becoming active in helping to create or support arts and health programs, then get in touch with AHNC (firstname.lastname@example.org) to explore what might be possible.
7. What does it mean to join AHNC?
At the present time, joining AHNC simply means filling out the registration form online. That tells us what your interests are and gives us a better idea of how to serve them. The numbers who join also indicate to potential funders the level of interest in arts and health in Canada. There are no fees or obligations to join. In time, AHNC intends to become a membership organization. At that point in the future, to join would mean paying a membership fee that would give you access to some aspects of this web site which are not public and to services that would not be available to non-members. However, at the moment, joining AHNC is absolutely free.