Some Tweeps are Keen about Arts and Health

October 9, 2014 — Last week, CAPACOA joined forces with the Arts Health Network Canada and Health Nexus to hold a Twitter chat on Arts and Health. Here's a summary.

This chat was held within the framework of the Community Health and Wellbeing Week. As such, much of the questions that were discussed related to topics that were relevant to community health centres: including the social factors that influence health (social determinants of health) and the programs that provide access to the arts to people who suffer from wealth and health inequities.

From the get-go, participants stressed how arts – including community arts and recreational arts – can positively impact physical and mental health. Arts Health Newtork shared their amazing infographic, while other participants quoted recent Canadian, Scottish and Finnish studies.

Many cases of arts and health initiatives were mentioned.

The notion of social exclusion, a factor that has serious impact on health was also discussed. Participants stressed how the arts are great in bringing down barriers and in connecting people. They can help people reinforce their social support networks and can contribute to social bridging and social cohesion. The Cultures du coeur program was cited as an example of a program that fights social exclusion by providing free access to performing events.

Arts in health care was barely mentioned – participants focused on how arts initiatives can work upstream to improve health from early childhood development to education, to the environmnent in which we live: "Health starts where we live, learn, work and play." Indeed, graffitis, public art, beautiful arts venues and site-specific performances all play an important role in providing access to beauty and to promoting health.

By the end of the discussion participants reminded themselves that mere attendance at performing arts events produces health outcomes, whether those are intended or not. This being said, some arts organizations are quite deliberate in their desire to contribute to health. And we have a good example within the CAPACOA membership: Alianait's mission is to "build a healthier Nunavut through the arts." Compelling isn't it?

Here's the storified version of this twitter chat.