Creative Health Review Report Launches

Creative Health Review Report Launches

On Wed 6th Dec 2023, we were joined by Creative Health Review commissioners, contributors and guests from across the sector to launch the NCCH and APPG on Arts, Health and Wellbeing Creative Health Review report in a hybrid event, kindly hosted by King’s College London at the Science Gallery in London.

The report ‘Creative Health Review – How Policy Can Embrace Creative Health’ highlights how creative health can help to tackle key policy challenges across health, social care and wider systems, and makes recommendations to the Government and Metropolitan Mayors for a dedicated cross-departmental strategy on creative health. It brings together evidence and examples of best practice explored in a series of roundtables over the past year, shaped into recommendations with the support of our esteemed panel of commissioners and our lived experience panel.

The Review presents the following key messages:

  • Creative health is fundamental to a healthy and prosperous society, and its benefits should be available and accessible to all.
  • Creative health should form an integral part of a 21st-century health and social care system – one that is holistic, person-centred, and which focuses on reducing inequalities and supporting people to live well for longer.
  • Creating the conditions for creative health to flourish requires a joined-up, whole system approach incorporating health systems, local authorities, schools, and the cultural and VCSE sectors.

The recommendations outline how the Government and Metropolitan Mayors can help to create the conditions for creative health to flourish, and the benefits they will reap in doing so. Read more here.

The Rt Hon. Lord Alan Howarth of Newport CBE, Chair of NCCH and Co-Chair of the APPG on Arts, Health and Wellbeing, welcomed our guests to the launch, and expressed his sincere gratitude to the Creative Health Review commissioners and contributors. He called on all government departments to commit to creative health to tackle pressing policy challenges:

“We need a strategic approach, driven by Number 10 and the Cabinet Office and supported by the Treasury, that integrates creative health into a wider range of policies, thereby enabling pressing policy issues, especially health inequalities to be addressed more effectively and some pressure removed from struggling health and care services” – Lord Alan Howarth of Newport

The scene was set by Josie Moon and Kelly McLaughlin, participants in our Health Inequalities Roundtable, who outlined the central role of creativity in the work of East Marsh United, a community-based organisation working to empower the residents of East Marsh in Grimsby to improve their neighbourhood. Creative activities such as singing, creative writing, community gardening and intergenerational theatre contribute to ‘a joyful and imaginative vision for transforming East Marsh into a more settled, safe and healthy community’ which now extends to working as an ethical social landlord and running a community wealth building programme.

“Creativity has been my medicine, my safety, my recovery – more powerful than any drug or intervention has ever been.” – Kelly McLaughlin, Community Organiser, East Marsh United

Gemma O’Brien, a member of the Review’s lived experience panel, spoke of the importance of placing lived experience at the centre of research and service design and developing methods which allow the voice of lived experience to be captured. In her research with the Horsfall Creative Space and Gallery at 42nd Street in Manchester, Gemma investigated how young people felt the space improved their health and wellbeing:

“Creative health encompasses freedom, belonging, validation, agency, and social connection, and it can be both a safe and accessible space in a world of waiting, inaccessibility and inequality” – Gemma O’Brien, Artist, Researcher and Lived Experience Panel Member

We were privileged to be joined by several of our commissioners for the event.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot outlined the pressing need to address the challenge of worsening health inequalities, and made the case for creativity as a basic need, providing people with dignity, purpose and meaning. He called for a new way to measure progress, shifting away from a focus solely on GDP and economic measures, to an emphasis on quality of life.

“We don’t expect government to create creativity for us, but we do expect it to provide opportunities and to provide facilities within which people can be creative….What I want us to do is to rethink what it means to live in society – what is our purpose? What do we want the politics to deliver? We want the politics to deliver the opportunity for people to live lives they have reason to value, and creative endeavours can be a crucial part of leading a life you have reason to value” – Professor Sir Michael Marmot

Horticulturist and broadcaster Monty Don OBE spoke passionately of the role creativity and nature have played in supporting his personal mental health and wellbeing, and his hopes that this report can help raise public awareness of creative health and its benefits.

“We know from very good evidence that people’s anxiety, depression and loneliness is dramatically improved simply with a few hours in a garden with other people, looking after plants, investing in a future that works to a natural rhythm…That rhythm of hope, that rhythm of trust, has to be part of our health. And if this report encourages an awareness of that, and maybe encourages people to just do a little, then our time has been well spent.” – Monty Don OBE

In a panel session chaired by Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey OBE, Review commissioners Alice Wiseman, James Sanderson, Professor Martin Marshall CBE, and Rob Webster CBE spoke of the opportunities for politicians and policymakers at local and regional level to incorporate creative health into place-based approaches which will improve population health, improve local economies and help to address health inequalities. There was a feeling amongst the panel that a social movement is developing around creative health, and that a groundswell of public demand, combined with forward-thinking leadership can ensure that creative health is embedded across systems and accessible to all. National-level political support, in line with the Review recommendations, will help to speed up this process.

Professor Richard Trembath, representing King’s College London and King’s Health Partners, reflected on the importance placed on Creative Health across the University and local health system and some early findings of the major SHAPER initiative (Scaling-up Health Arts Programmes) which is assessing the effectiveness and implementation of three well-evidenced arts and health interventions.

Creativity was also a feature of the launch event, and we were treated to a poetry reading from Arji Manuelpillai, who performed ‘Breathe’, originally written as a commission for Breathe Arts Health Research, and a performance from singer and songwriter Sherika Sherard. As part of the Review, we commissioned artists with their own lived experiences to respond creatively to each of the Review's roundtable themes. Their work was also on display throughout the launch and can be explored here.

We would like to thank the many people and organisations who have contributed to and supported the Review over the past year. The launch of the Report marks the start of the next phase of our mission to create the conditions for creative health to be integral to health, social care and wider systems. Into 2024 we will be building on the Review and its recommendations, supporting system leaders and policymakers to fully embed creative health into their work.

As commissioner and Director of Public Health for Gateshead Alice Wiseman put it in the panel discussion:

“Things do change, but they only change if we continue to advocate for them in the right places and with a loud voice…we need to continue to say it to the right people, in the right places, as much as we possibly can.” – Alice Wiseman

Watch the full recording of the Launch

Find out more about the Creative Health Review >>

Screen Shot 2023 12 12 at 15 50 06