The National Endowment for the Arts Issues Report Calling for Greater Involvement of the Arts in Health Care

Arts Provide Proven Benefits to Patients and Care Providers

Washington, D.C. - Arts in healthcare programs must
be strengthened and expanded to improve the country's medical services,
according to a two-part report issued today by the National Endowment for the
Arts (NEA). Advocates must raise awareness of the benefits of arts in
healthcare, better document and disseminate research demonstrating its value,
develop a national funding base, and develop adequate training to educate and
train healthcare workers and administrators, the report states.

Hospital patient working on a flower collage on construction paper

The Connecticut Hospice in Branford provides a wide variety of arts activities to its patients and their family members, designed to enhance their lives and provide an outlet for self-expression. The National Endowment for the Arts provided support to establish this program.

A recent symposium, hosted by the NEA and the Society for the Arts in Healthcare, brought together 40 experts in medicine, the arts, social services, media, business and government to develop a strategic plan for advancing cultural programming in healthcare. A concept paper detailing the current state of the arts in healthcare provided the basis for discussion and the resulting strategic plan will form the blueprint for future progress.

"The arts have an extraordinary ability to enhance our lives, to help us heal and to bring us comfort in times of great stress," according to NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. "We must reconnect the arts with the actual human existence that Americans lead, the journeys we take in life, which lead us through hospitals, to hospices, to the end of life."

According to the symposium concept paper, the arts can be incorporated into healthcare in a wide variety of ways. Artists and arts administrators may provide arts activities designed to help patients relax, socialize, find solace, or express their emotions. Many hospitals create a healing environment that includes artwork in patient rooms and waiting areas or live music and performances in public spaces designed to lift the spirits and alleviate stress for patients and healthcare providers. Hospices and other facilities find that
arts activities can rejuvenate caregivers who witness illness and death often and can experience depression, fatigue, and burnout. Other programs use the arts to promote health and well-being within the broader community. These include activities that promote arts-related contact between youth and older adults; access to the arts for people with disabilities; and helping communities use the arts to better deal with grief and loss in times of crisis.

Young woman with nurse with colorful seascape wall mural in background

Brightly painted artwork by Gayle Mangan of Annapolis, Maryland, creates a cheerful atmosphere in an exam room at Hasbro Children's Hospital. The Providence, RI facility also offers Museum on Rounds, a weekly, hands-on art program for children. Photo courtesy of Lifespan Marketing & Communications.

The NEA-sponsored research detailed in the concept paper indicates art contributes to the perception of quality of medical care by bringing more warmth, stimulation and comfort to a healthcare facility. In addition, it states that art can have a positive impact on the mood of patients, their families, and the healthcare professionals who are tending them.

"The arts and healthcare are at a turning point, both buffeted by the economy and changing demographics, and, at times, by horrific events that can shatter a community in an instant," according to Naj Wikoff, President, Society for the Arts in Healthcare. "It is clear that a closer alliance between those in the arts and healthcare will greatly benefit both fields and the people they serve."

The symposium's recommendations will be used as guidelines for developing programs and structuring policy by the Society for the Arts in Healthcare, the National Endowment for the Arts, and other public and private organizations across the country.

The National Endowment for the Arts has been supporting a broad range of professional arts programming in healthcare settings since 1978, reinforcing the agency's goals to make the arts more widely available and to improve the quality of life for all Americans through the arts.

The Washington, D.C.-based Society for the Arts in Healthcare was founded in 1990 to promote the incorporation of the arts as an integral component of healthcare.

For more information, contact the NEA Office of Communications at 202-682-5570.