What is Arts & Health?  

“Arts & Health is a growing interdisciplinary field that embraces many forms of art to promote health and prevent disease in individuals and communities, enhance health service delivery and enrich research inquiry.” – Arts Health Network Canada, 2013

Infographics & Media

  • Arts & Health Infographic - a graphical overview and introduction to the broad field of Arts & Health.  Click here for PDF.
  • Creative Aging Infographic - a graphical overview and introduction to the broad field of Creative Aging.  Click here for PDF.
  • Dementia and the Arts Infographic - a graphical introduction to the benefits of arts engagement for people with Dementia and their caregivers.  Click here for PDF.
  • Arts & Health Mini Doc - produced by Arts Health BC, AHNC & Hello Cool World, this mini-doc gives an overview of Arts & Health in the province of British Columbia.  Click here for video.

Short & Snappy Summaries

These short summaries are intended for use wherever concise material is required. Please download and use as you need them with credit to Arts Health Network Canada.

  • Impact of Arts on Health - a 2 page summary of arts contributions to health care and to health promotion for individuals and communities.  Click Here for PDF
  • Status of Arts and Health In Canada - a 5 page summary of the current state of arts and health in this country, including important challenges and connections between physicians and the arts.  Click Here for PDF
  • The Need in Canada  -  a one page statement of what Canadians need in order to catch up to other western nations in recognizing and benefitting from the contributions of arts to health.  Click Here for PDF

Comprehensive Reviews & Key Articles

This section features reports and articles that give broad overviews of arts and health.

  • Exploring the Longitudinal Relationship between Arts Engagement and Health. Gordon-Nesbitt, R. (2015). Manchester, UK. Research undertaken by Dr Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt has uncovered evidence, stretching back a number of decades, which shows a significant association between engaging with the arts and longer lives better lived.  Full Text PDF​ 
  • The art of being healthy: a qualitative study to develop a thematic framework for understanding the relationship between health and the arts. Davies, C. R., Knuiman, M., Wright, P., & Rosenberg, M. (2014). BMJ Open, 4(4), e004790–e004790.  Guided by the biopsychosocial model of health and theories of social epidemiology, the aim of this study was to develop a framework pertaining to the relationship between arts engagement and population health that included outcomes, confounders and effect modifiers.  Full Text PDF
  • Evaluating effectiveness of arts and health programmes in Primary Health Care: a descriptive review. Tesch, L., & Hansen, E. C. (2013). Arts & Health, 5(1), 19–38.  This descriptive review investigated how arts and health programmes and projects in Primary Health Care evaluate their effectiveness. A systematic search was undertaken of articles and reports that reported results from arts and health project and programme evaluations in Primary Health Care settings from 2004 to 2009. Abstract
  • ​"If you can call it a poem”: toward a framework for the assessment of arts-based works. Lafreniere, D., & Cox, S. M. (2012). Qualitative Research, 13(3), 318–336. The use of artistic forms as an alternative means for representing research findings is gaining acceptance in the research community. There are, however, important yet unresolved and even contentious issues arising from these new applications of the arts. We propose a Guiding Arts-Based Research Assessment (GABRA) meta-framework for assessing the quality and effectiveness of utilizing the arts for knowledge dissemination. Abstract
  • Creative arts as a public health resource: moving from practice-based research to evidence-based practice. Clift, S. (2012). Perspectives in Public Health, 132(3), 120–7.  There is growing international acceptance of the notion that participation in the creative arts can be beneficial for well-being and health. However, the field of arts and health is complex and multi-faceted and there are challenges in moving beyond 'practice-based' research, towards building a progressive body of knowledge that can provide a basis for future 'evidence-based' practice in health care and public health. Abstract
  • A Hole in the Heart: confronting the drive for evidence-based impact research in arts and health. Raw, A., Lewis, S., Russell, A., & Macnaughton, J. (2012). Arts & Health, 4(2), 97–108.  The field of arts and health, and associated academic discussion, is beset by a number of interlinked challenges which make it vulnerable to academic dismissal or, at best, poor visibility. One of these is a preoccupation with developing an evidence base of impact. This is compounded by resistance to definitions, disagreement over what constitutes appropriate evidence of success, and inadequate consideration of the mechanisms of arts and health practice, as opposed to outcomes. We argue that increased attention should be paid to the description, analysis and theorising of the practice itself as the basis upon which the findings of impact studies can be understood and accepted.  Full Text PDF
  • Arts practices in unreasonable doubt? Reflections on understandings of arts practices in healthcare contexts. Broderick, S. (2011). Arts & Health, 3(2), 95–109.  Distinctions between arts therapy and arts practice are made to suggest that clinical evidence-based evaluation, while appropriate for arts therapy, is not appropriate for arts practice and in effect cast them in unreasonable doubt. Full Text PDF
  • Tipping the iceberg? The state of arts and health in Canada. Arts & Health, 2(2), 109–124. Cox, S. M., Lafrenière, D., Brett-MacLean, P., Collie, K., Cooley, N., Dunbrack, J., & Frager, G. (2010).  This article summarizes the state of arts and health in Canada, prior to the funding of Arts Health Network Canada, including an overview of arts in health policy, health care practice, individual and community health promotion, health professional education, and arts-based health research.  Full Text PDF
  • The connection between art, healing, and public health: a review of current literature. Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 254–63.This review explores the relationship between engagement with the creative arts and health outcomes, specifically the health effects of music engagement, visual arts therapy, movement-based creative expression, and expressive writing. Full Text PDF
  • On creating the discipline, profession, and evidence in the field of arts and healthcare. Dileo, C., & Bradt, J. (2009). Arts & Health, 1(2), 168–182.  This article presents a brief review of (1) decisions regarding how the discipline of arts in healthcare will evolve, (2) specifications for the professionalization of arts in healthcare, and then presents more detailed information on the current status of research in the field as it relates to demands for evidence-based practice. Abstract
  • State of the Field Report: Arts in Healthcare 2009. State of the Field Committee. (2009). Washington, DC.  This comprehensive overview of arts programming in health care settings and current research findings in the US was sponsored by the Society for the Arts in Healthcare, Americans for the Arts, The Joint Commission and the University of Florida Center for the Arts in Healthcare.  Full Text PDF
  • The state of the arts in healthcare in the United States. Sonke, J., Rollins, J., Brandman, R., & Graham-Pole, J. (2009). Arts & Health, 1(2), 107–135.  Through an overview of the field's development as well as consideration of practice, research, and educational structures, this paper summarizes the current state of the field in the United States.  Abstract

Additional Background Papers

  • "Art as a Determinant of Health", Dorothy A. Lander, Dr. John R. Graham-Pole,  Antigonish, Nova Scotia, July 2008. Submitted to the National Collaborating Centre- Determinants of Health (Ncc-DH). The authors highlight the significance of art in global health promotion, education, research, activism, and therapy with curative and/or palliative intent. The authors argue the evidence that we are hard-wired for art explains the universal slowness to declare art a cardinal health determinant and the global governmental failure to take action to reflect the compelling evidence of art as a health determinant. Click Here for PDF 
  • "Arts and Culture in Medicine and Health:  A Survey Research Paper,"  Cooley & Associates, Inc., Victoria, BC.  January, 2003. This paper is a survey of studies available in English on the contributions of arts to both individual and community health and to diagnosis and treatment in health care systems. The author argues there is strong evidence for the proposition that the arts contribute positively to at least seven of Health Canada's 12 key determinants of health. This paper was a background paper for the 2005 Canadian Forum on Arts and Health. Click Here for PDF