In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Arts in Health

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Key Field Reports
  • Reference Works
  • Textbooks
  • Research Databases
  • Journals
  • Evidence Reports
  • White Papers and Policy Briefs
  • Case Studies

Public Health Arts in Health
Ladona Tornabene, Jill Sonke
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 April 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 April 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0214


While the arts and health have been deeply connected throughout human history, arts in health, “a field dedicated to using the power of the arts to enhance health and well-being in diverse institutional and community contexts” as defined by the National Organization for Arts in Health, has emerged as a formal field of practice and academic discipline over the past three decades. Arts in health is the umbrella term for arts in health care and arts in public health. Within health-care settings, artists and arts programming/practices enrich the environment of care, provide creative opportunities for staff, visitors, and patients, and have been linked to specific health outcomes for the latter including less pain and anxiety, reduced length of hospital stay, and increased satisfaction. Arts in public health is an emerging discipline where public health intersects with arts and culture. It engages arts and cultural practices for health promotion, prevention, communication, and well-being in communities outside of clinical settings. Arts in public health programs may help people cope with chronic health conditions and are often designed to enhance well-being, happiness, social cohesion, and the opportunity to flourish both individually and collectively. This discipline recognizes that artists have long worked in communities to improve the human condition; however, while many artists address health-related concerns in their work, not all such work can be subsumed under the umbrella of arts in public health. Work that fits under this umbrella is that in which collaboration takes place among professionals and practitioners in the public health and arts and culture sectors for health promotion. While aligned with arts in health, creative arts therapies remain a clinical discipline wherein trained creative arts therapists address medical and mental health problems. Medical humanities explore connections between the health sciences and humanities, inclusive of the arts. Arts in health professionals are not clinical care providers, rather they are professionals, including artists, who are trained to facilitate the arts in either a health-care or public health/community setting or partnership. Although this article focuses on arts in health, there will be a significant emphasis on arts in public health. The authors would like to thank members of the University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine Interdisciplinary Research Lab: Karen Coker, Aaron Colverson, Alexandra Rodriguez, Prasanna Vankina, and Yanlin Wang, who contributed to this manuscript through assistance with locating citations and formatting.

General Overviews and Key Field Reports

Many arts programs emerged around the world in biomedical health-care settings between the 1970s and 1990s. Today, rapid advancements are taking place in engagement of the arts within the public health sector. General overviews of the many ways in which the arts intersect with health are provided in several recent publications, which highlight practical and theoretical perspectives, provide evidence and frameworks for guiding practice and research, as well as offer examples of practice in the field. These overviews also offer recommendations for policy advancement in respective countries. The inclusion of field-defining reports reflects the relatively new nature of the arts in the health field and discipline. Also reflected are the efforts by various countries to delineate the field in their contexts and advance it through guiding practice, policy, and research. While there are several reports in circulation, Marmot, et al. 2017 is the field-defining report for the United Kingdom as it concurrently remains a seminal document internationally. Its American counterpart, Lambert, et al. 2017, defines the discipline in relation to associated fields and offers examples of practices and recommendations for its advancement in the United States. Similarly, the 2014 National Arts and Health Framework provides an overview and framework in Australia. Stickley and Clift 2017 delivers a critical theoretical examination of the field through a range of practice and research examples, including perspectives from an array of contributing authors. Daykin 2020 offers an important critical perspective through the lens of the social sciences.

  • Australia’s Health Ministers and Cultural Ministers. 2014. National Arts and Health Framework.

    Australia’s national arts and health framework. Contents include a commitment from health and arts and culture ministers to foster collaboration across these sectors toward improving health and well-being for all Australians. Focus is placed on the value of arts and health practice and outcomes, valuing the professionalism of those working in the field, and acknowledging the continued significance of establishing an evidence base rooted in rigorous research.

  • Daykin, N. 2020. Arts, health and well-being: A critical perspective on research, policy and practice. New York: Routledge.

    Overviews the current evidence as well as challenges to research, policy, and practice in arts in health to develop a case for arts in health as a social movement and to suggest a new research agenda to guide future development of the field.

  • Lambert, P. D., D. Betts, J. Rollins, J. Sonke, and K. W. Swanson. 2017. Arts, health and well-being in America. National Organization for Arts in Health.

    White paper. Offering a comprehensive report on arts in health in the United States, this paper introduces ways in which the arts are used to improve health and well-being across five areas: health-care environment, patient experience, clinical services, caring for caregivers, and community health and well-being. It concludes with recommendations for advancing the field in the United States.

  • Marmot, M., M. Sinclair, L. Darzi, et al. 2017. Creative health: The arts for health and wellbeing. All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing.

    Intended to drive awareness of how the arts benefit health and well-being and to advance health policy, this report overviews arts programs and interventions in health and social care and offers recommendations for how the arts can improve health practice in the United Kingdom. Emphasis is placed on social determinants of health, the evidence, and the cost-benefit relationships of the arts to health promotion across the lifespan.

  • Stickley, T., and S. Clift, eds. 2017. Arts, health and wellbeing: A theoretical inquiry for practice. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars.

    Collated from presentations given at the 2013 UK Seminar Series on Arts, Health, and Wellbeing, this text highlights theoretical and methodological research on arts, health and well-being practices. The book critically examines arts in health practices and their models of research, and highlights the importance of investing in such programs, both in hospital and community settings.

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