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Kerry Wilson

Social Prescribing and the Cultural Determinants of Wellbeing in the UK

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (August 2014 – July 2015), ‘The Art of Social Prescribing’ research project was designed to inform the future development of cultural commissioning policy in the Liverpool city region. The project examined the collaborative contexts and decision-making processes behind arts-based social prescribing, including its professional efficacy in mental health care settings, in association with a range of project partners including regional NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups, mental health services, arts on prescription schemes and cultural organisations.

The project forms part of a wider research programme led by the author at the Institute of Cultural Capital in the UK, focused upon the value and impact of creative interventions in mental health care. This research is driven by an increased policy focus on social determinants of mental health; preventive non-clinical measures through joint strategic planning and community-led, asset-based approaches; each underpinned by a shared objective for a more proactive, positivist promotion of mental health and wellbeing. Social prescribing provides a means for enabling primary care services to refer patients and service users with social, emotional or practical needs to a range of local, non-clinical services, often provided by the voluntary and community sector. Such non-clinical approaches are gaining added resonance within mental health care due to their proactive, preventive qualities, and the opportunities created to provide strategically ‘joined up’ services across a range of cross-sector organisations.

These strategic developments within health care policy and practice communities have occurred in parallel with an increased emphasis upon the value of arts and culture to health and wellbeing within cultural policy circles. In practical terms, this is evidenced by initiatives to support the direct commissioning of arts and cultural interventions by statutory health and social services. The Art of Social Prescribing research posits arts-based social prescribing as an authenticating, enabling framework for an integrated cultural wellbeing ecosystem, based on mutually beneficial professional and political imperatives across health and cultural sectors. The efficacy of such an approach however is dependent upon healthy existing networks, collaborative infrastructures and a shared commitment to evidencing and promoting its uniquely cultural value.

Kerry WilsonKerry Wilson

Kerry is currently Head of Research at the Institute of Cultural Capital (ICC), a cultural policy research centre jointly hosted by the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) in the UK. She has been conducting academic research in the fields of library management, arts policy and cultural leadership since 2003 and has led a number of research and evaluation projects covering different aspects of cultural work and the sector's contribution to key public policy agendas. She has been commissioned by a range of organisations and funding bodies including the British Council, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), Arts Council England, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Her broad research interests, in a cultural policy context, include professional identity, instrumental value and collaborative practice. Recent research at the ICC for example has focused on the value and impact of creative interventions in mental health care, including successive evaluation studies of a museums-led dementia care training intervention (commissioned by National Museums Liverpool) and a study on the efficacy of arts-based social prescribing (funded by the AHRC). For more information please see iccliverpool.ac.uk