The launch of the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance

By Philippa Cahill, Director

This week I was delighted to attend the launch of the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

The launch was an important diary date for everybody who believes in the importance of arts in health and wellbeing. Bringing together the National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing with the National Alliance for Museums, Health and Wellbeing, it will work to develop understanding of how participating in cultural activities can help individual and community health and wellbeing.

Speaking at the launch, Alliance President Lord Howarth of Newport, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing noted that we may be at a turning point and a ‘coming of age’ of the arts and health movement. For those of us who are passionate about this, it certainly feels that way.

At the national level, the extraordinarily thorough and wide ranging APPG Inquiry report Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing published in July 2017 provides an important source of authority and collection of case studies, testimonies and impact statistics. This was followed by the well-attended Westminster Hall Debate in October, which saw calls for a cross-Government strategy. And at the local level, improved evaluation of initiatives is adding to the evidence-base. There will be a growing army of advocates with the introduction of new academic options such as the King’s College MSc in Arts and Health which will train people to design, evaluate and research arts interventions in healthcare, with the first cohort of students starting in 2019.

It’s pretty clear – the arts and health world is getting organised.

At the launch, speaking alongside Mags Patten, Lord Howarth paid tribute to the Arts Council for their work on the formation of the Alliance and establishment of regional arts and health champions. He expressed his hope that the new ten-year strategy for 2020-2030 will reflect the APPG recommendation that arts organisations incorporate health and wellbeing in their day to day work. That would be an important step forward, and at M&F Health, we hope that commercial health and social care organisations will similarly look to formalise their commitment to arts practice, for the ultimate in joined up thinking.

Lord Howarth noted that the many and various advocates of this movement, citizens, artists, health and social care professionals, managers and politicians are in fact, ‘all in this together’.

We would add communicators to that list to ensure that the increasingly powerful arts and health message is heard by policy makers, commissioners, and decision-makers and that cultural step-change is achieved before it is too late for our current health and social care system. The role for communications is also vital in fundraising, articulating value and showcasing the success of those involved at the coal-face of participatory arts and cultural engagement, and in building advocacy networks and maintaining momentum.

It’s a big challenge, but one we are eager to take on together.