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‘Arts prescriptions’ could improve mental health

‘Arts prescriptions’ could improve mental health says Creative New Zealand

Creative New Zealand is advocating for improved access to creative spaces to support better health outcomes in its submission to the Government’s Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction.

Drawing on the significant body of international research evidence indicating arts prescription schemes can improve mental health and well-being, particularly in the elderly, it proposes New Zealand introduce a similar scheme that it says should be funded from the national health budget.

David Pannett, Creative New Zealand’s senior manager for advocacy, says an arts prescription scheme could be similar to New Zealand’s existing ‘green prescription’ scheme, through which a health professional can advise a patient to increase physical activity and improve their nutrition.

“There’s potential for the arts to play a much greater role in supporting better mental health outcomes. To realise this potential central Government needs to bring in the idea of arts prescriptions alongside other health interventions,” he says.

The submission notes several overseas schemes have been shown to have significant benefits. Countries that have arts prescription schemes include Australia, Wales and the United Kingdom.

It says a New South Wales participatory arts scheme for the elderly that complements conventional healthcare has shown improvement in mental and physical health, and reduced social isolation.

It notes an arts-on-prescription scheme in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire in the UK showed there was a 37 percent reduction in GP appointments with a 27 percent reduction in hospital admissions there. Overall the scheme resulted in a £216 per patient reduction in National Health Service costs.

The submission also notes New Zealand has existing creative spaces (organisations and places) that support greater access to the arts for those who are seeking to overcome mental health challenges.

One of these is Gisborne mental health clinic Te Kuwatawata where Māori artists work alongside Māori mental health patients as part of an integrated approach that is supported by the local DHB.

Paula Cuff, Creative New Zealand Senior Manager – Māori Strategy and Partnerships, says since opening in August last year it has shown early promise to improve health outcomes for patients.

“We visited this creative space earlier in the year as part of the Creative New Zealand Ngā Toi Māori roadshow. It was amazing to see how effective working with artists was for local whanau,” she says.

David Pannett says although Te Kuwatawata is supported through DHB funding, other similar schemes received no funding from the national health budget. “We believe given the powerful and positive impact that arts engagement has been shown to have on well-being, such initiatives should be funded directly and consistently through Vote Health, to enable equality of access to all,” he says.

He says the significant body of international research evidence showing the many and varied health benefits of arts engagement is backed up by Creative New Zealand’s own research.

The latest findings from New Zealanders and the Arts, Creative New Zealand’s longitudinal research study into New Zealanders’ attendance, attitudes towards and participation in the arts, shows New Zealanders’ arts engagement reached an all-time high in 2017 (the study began in 2005.) It found a majority of Māori (55%) believe Ngā toi Māori has a positive effect on their health and wellbeing.

“Our research shows just how much art matters for an increasing number of us. Whether we are enjoying a concert with friends, getting involved in kapa haka or learning to paint, arts engagement helps so many New Zealanders, of all ages and all walks of life, to be happy and healthy,” he says.

Read the submission


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