The arts with its emphasis on self-expression, creativity and self-understanding, has a unique contribution to make to health; however, the health-arts relationship is not well understood and a scientific approach is needed if we are to move the health-arts debate beyond anecdote and opinion.
Health and Arts research at The University of Western Australia aims to build on current knowledge and complements the growing multidisciplinary nature of this field.
Evidence of the health benefits of arts engagement has been accumulating since the 1990s, therefore compared to other disciplines, the health-arts field is in its infancy. As the pressure on health resources grows, many are calling for innovative solutions to encourage health promotion and healing. As a result, the health-arts nexus has received increasing attention from clinicians, researchers, health professionals and policy makers interested in the potential of the arts to positively influence wellbeing; to complement conventional medical treatments; and act as an innovative health promotion setting.
Arts engagement can be defined as active (e.g. making art) or passive (e.g. attending events) involvement in creative activities or events within a variety of art forms such as the performing arts, visual arts, literature, electronic/digital arts and festivals.
“Arts for Health” relates to the idea that arts engagement can be a means of directly promoting, maintaining and improving health.
“Health in Arts” refers to a partnership between health and arts organisations to promote health messages, introduce health policy and make health promoting enviro-structural changes to arts events and venues (e.g. cigarette smoke free, the availability of healthy food choices).