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Arts and Health Australia

Priority Recommendations

The Art of Good Health and Wellbeing International Arts and Health Conference Port Macquarie NSW Australia, 10 – 13 November 2009

Priority Recommendations for the advancement of Arts and Health in Australia
Across Policy, Programming, Health Promotion, Education and Research

Conference delegates formulated the following priority recommendations for consideration by Government. These recommendations will be refined further during 2010.

The Australian Government - at federal, state and local levels - is called on to:

  1. Recognise the importance of the arts in fostering a healthy national cultural identity with positive health and wellbeing outcomes for all Australians, particularly for those who are ageing, have a disability or are socially excluded.
  2. Invest in the development of an integrated national strategy, across whole of government, to identify, delineate and promote the benefits of the arts and humanities in primary healthcare, community health, health promotion, education and research.

    This strategy is to address the relevant goals of the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission, Primary Health Care Review and the Government’s Prevention strategy and be developed in partnership with key stakeholders from health, education, arts organisations, Aboriginal communities, veterans’ affairs, environmental planning and universal design.

    The strategy will also be informed by the growing body of scientific research which demonstrates that creative activities can assist people with chronic disease to manage their condition such as diabetes, cancer, respiratory conditions and dementia and can play a preventative role in curbing or reducing the effect of conditions such as depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
  3. Acknowledge the compelling business case for utilizing the arts in healthcare, as evidenced by Dr Gene Cohen’s ground-breaking research study in the United States (2001 – 2005) entitled "The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults”. Results from this rigorous longitudinal study show that the intervention group had significantly better overall health, fewer falls and less hip damage, fewer doctor's visits, diminished use of medications, diminished vision problems, significantly better scores on the Geriatric Depression Scale and the Loneliness Scale and increased involvement in activities and socialisation. The results in this study point to potentially major costs savings for health services.
  4. Allocate funding to expand arts and health programs to improve Aboriginal health, drawing on the key components of Aboriginal culture across the visual arts, music, dance and storytelling, and to inform the National Indigenous Education Strategy.
  5. Fund the development and management of innovative professionally conducted arts and health programs for older Australians to enable opportunities for Australian seniors to remain socially connected, engage in lifelong learning and to play meaningful service roles in their communities.
  6. Identify ways for arts and health programs to provide support for carers and volunteers and to assist baby boomers in caring for their ageing parents and planning for their own needs as older adults.
  7. Require that all cultural facilities be universally designed to meet full accessibility.
  8. Create a national benchmark of a minimum of 1.5 % of the capital construction costs of building or renovating healthcare and community health facilities quarantined to support arts in healthcare programs for that facility. Research in the United States illustrates that the cost of arts and health programs can be recouped through higher rates of staff recruitment, retention and satisfaction and through reduced staff burnout.
  9. Provide multi-year funding to support the training of professional artists to work in healthcare with appropriate rates of remuneration and support the creation of a technical assistance program to strengthen existing and emerging arts and humanities initiatives in healthcare and community health. This potential workforce can also assist in countering staff shortages in healthcare, especially in regional Australia.
  10. Invest in a strategy for communicating the benefits of the arts and humanities in individual and community health and wellbeing to specific target audiences such as doctors, allied health professionals, educators, researchers, policy makers as well as a broad marketing communications strategy for the community at large.

These recommendations will be considered further and refined during 2010. To provide feedback or make suggestions, you can leave a comment below or contact us by email.


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Department of Health and Ageing Aevum Living UNESCO  ObservatoryNational Ageing  Research Institute