Art and Health Systems

I believe the arts should be an integral part of any health system. The arts have the power to influence the social determinants of health (the conditions in which individuals are born, grow, live, and age and the systems that influence daily life conditions) and promote health equity. There are tons of research showing the role that art plays in health, but how do we transfer this research into policy so that we can all start benefiting from it?

First, we need to translate this research and provide it to future health care and public health professionals through education, so they can all have these tools in their toolbox. They will all benefit from training on how the arts can help prevent illness, promote health, and treat disease. They can’t share what they don’t know.

Here in the United States, we also need to shift the incentives we have in place for health, from a disease driven model to a prevention-based model. Even if we can show through research that the arts can promote healthy aging and help prevent and manage disease in a more cost-effective way, promoting the use of art in health will be challenging in the face of a system that rewards illness. The worse a patient gets, the more money doctors and health care systems make. Monetary incentives in the US are in place to build more hospitals for the sick, not more open green spaces for people to exercise, connect, breathe, and play.

But there is hope, because the health care system that we have in the US right now is unsustainable, and at some point, change will be inevitable. There are a many organizations and researchers like me, paving the way for the arts to take its righteous place in promoting health and wellbeing…for everyone.