The University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine released a guide this week for health care practitioners, insurance companies, and community organizations on how to integrate arts, culture, and nature into referral programs, a concept within a social prescribing model known as arts on prescription.
“Arts on Prescription: A Field Guide for U.S. Communities," developed in partnership with Mass Cultural Council, offers a roadmap for “prescribing” creative activities like art classes, dance lessons, and visits to museums, gardens, and theaters to support and improve a patient's health, well-being, and quality of life.
“As overburdened primary care providers struggle to meet patients’ needs, community activities like these show promise to boost well-being and prevent the onset of disease,” says Jill Sonke, UF Arts in Medicine research director and associate professor in UF’s College of the Arts. “In one US pilot, these prescriptions are covered by a regional insurance provider.”
The evidence-based field guide is the first how-to manual for communities eager to engage the arts and cultural resources in efforts to improve collective health.
“It provides a step-by-step approach for cultural and art organizations as well as health and social care providers who wish to create or expand these programs,” says Tasha Golden, lead author and director of research at the International Arts + Minds Lab.
While most U.S. physicians and insurance companies aren’t yet referring patients to museum visits or dance classes, research into social prescribing in the United Kingdom and other countries where the practice is more prevalent is showing that such an approach to wellness can improve health outcomes.
That led Sonke and colleagues at the EpiArts Lab, a National Endowment for the Arts Research Lab based at UF in partnership with University College London, to look for similar correlations in the U.S. Their findings so far are promising and contributed to the evidence-based content in the field guide.
The Arts on Prescription field guide, designed to build community partnerships, highlights a handful of arts on prescription programs in the United States and the diverse ways in which these programs can be carried out. For example:
- CultureRx in Massachusetts allows providers to prescribe arts and culture experiences at partner organizations.
- A collaboration between the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield provides arts prescriptions to insurance members who are at risk of overusing health care.
- Isolation to Connection in New York City combats loneliness through community connectors who link older adults to cultural activities, volunteer work, and more.
“This field guide can help communities unlock the power and potential of the arts and cultural assets right in their own backyard,” said Susan Magsamen, executive director of the International Arts + Mind Lab and co-author of “Your Brain On Art: How the Arts Transform Us.” “Fueled by growing scientific evidence, health care practitioners are coming to understand the critical link between a community’s health and well-being and its artistic, creative, cultural, and aesthetic experiences.”
"The Arts on Prescription: A Field Guide for U.S. Communities" can be accessed free of charge on the UF Center for Arts in Medicine website.