Healthcare arts: Winners of Arts and Health Awards 2011 are unveiled

8-Sep-2011

AN ARTS project tackling social isolation among older people, an evaluation of the impact of heritage collections on mental health, and a project taking music to the bedsides of sick children have been singled out for praise in this year’s Arts and Health Awards.

At a time when the NHS is facing enormous challenges with funding and re-organisation, it is encouraging to see that across the UK there are so many imaginative partnerships between arts organisations and acute and community trusts making a significant contribution to public health and wellbeing

Organised by the Royal Society for Public Health, the initiative recognises excellence and innovation in the contributions of creative arts organisations towards improving wellbeing. This year the theme was the contribution of arts, music and cultural organisations to community health and healthcare.

In total, four main prizes have been awarded out of more than 40 entries. Prizes for excellence in research have also been announced. The winners are:

  • Dulwich Picture Gallery for its Good Times: Art for Older People project. This explored the value of gallery visits and workshops for promoting wellbeing and tackling social isolation among older people, including those affected by dementia. The evaluation of the project by Professor Sarah Harper of the Oxford Institute of Ageing also received an award for excellence in research
  • Renaissance North West consortium of museums and galleries for their Who Cares? Project, which explored the value of access to heritage collections in promoting wellbeing and social inclusion among people affected by mental health issues. The evaluation of this project by Professor Lynn Frogett of the University of Central Lancashire also received an award for excellence in research
  • Ex Cathedra choir for its Singing Medicine project, which takes music and song into Birmingham Children\'s Hospital, promoting the value of singing for supporting the healing and wellbeing of sick children
  • The evaluation of the Sing Up initiative in England by Professor Graham Welch of the Institute of Education at the University of London was singled out as a national initiative promoting the impact of singing in primary schools

Professor Stephen Clift, chairman of the awards committee, said: "We were enormously impressed by the range and quality of nominations received this year. At a time when the NHS is facing enormous challenges with funding and re-organisation, it is encouraging to see that across the UK there are so many imaginative partnerships between arts organisations and acute and community trusts and excellent arts projects making a significant contribution to public health and wellbeing."

A spokesman for Ex Cathedra said of its work at Birmingham Children\'s Hospital: "We believe that children who are in hospital for long or regular periods are equally entitled to access to the arts as when living in their own communities. Singing Medicine provides this access by using the far-ranging and wonderful benefits of singing to brighten the lives of children and their families."

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And an organiser at Dulwich Picture Gallery added: "Our efforts include teaming up with local GP surgeries to reach out to those overlooked by other institutions. Nurses with special responsibilities for older people invite patients they feel are most at risk of isolation to creative workshops at the gallery. "Several years of experience in this have shown that art can deliver a real tonic. Participants feel more confident and positive, concentrate better, and often forget their aches and pains. The individuals learn new skills in sympathetic and stimulating surroundings, make friends and start re-integrating into their communities."

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