Better evaluation and wider sharing of research findings is seen as a priority for developing the most effective and efficient arts in heath interventions.

Harpist on ward
Photo: 

via Chelsea and Westminster Health Charity

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has endorsed the value of arts-led community-focused interventions in improving the health of the population, and recognised the inter-relationship between the arts and individual and community health as “one of the key building blocks towards sustainable, resilient communities.” Describing the value of this work as "often underplayed", it notes that these often small-scale interventions can provide extensive outreach, particularly in their support for hard-to-reach communities, but are often not measured or recognised as part of a community’s “asset value”. The RSPH is preparing to develop a nationally recognised training and development pathway for all arts and health practitioners; and as public health policy in England increasingly makes the case for parity of esteem between mental health and physical health, it will be campaigning over the next five years for the role of the creative arts in this to be consolidated, through both policy commitment and national action plans. The Health and Social Care Act 2012, which has transferred responsibility for public health to local government, has potentially created new opportunities for arts and health initiatives in the delivery of wellbeing and mental health outcomes.

These commitments by the PSPH have been made in its new report, ‘Arts, Health and Wellbeing Beyond the Millennium: How far have we come in 15 years?’ The report also notes that evidence of the effectiveness of arts and health interventions is growing, but the lack of standardisation in methodology and outcome measures has hindered progress. It notes that high quality projects with larger numbers of participants and improved methodologies are required to demonstrate impact in terms of social, economic, cultural and environmental health, and quality of life benefits – areas of research currently favoured by government funding. It also proposes a co-ordinated approach to research development and a wider sharing of published research to enable comparisons of the effectiveness and efficiency of different approaches.