Art deserves a prominent place in healthcare

Much more attention needs to be paid to the positive effects of the use of art in healthcare. Art makes people feel better and helps them to better cope with their illness. Art can also mean a lot in the social domain and prevention, and in shortening hospital admissions. Research results and successful initiatives underline this, says professor Tineke Abma.
More than two hundred researchers, administrators, policy makers, healthcare workers, artists, teachers, experts and other stakeholders have participated in a broad study by Arts in Health the Netherlands. Together they outline how art can contribute to the transition in healthcare and how the field can be further strengthened.

Care through creativity
The consortium Arts in Health the Netherlands has drawn up a white paper that shows that art plays a valuable role in humanizing and making healthcare future-proof. Research shows that activities such as singing in a choir or visiting museums are not only enjoyable and inspiring, but also have demonstrable health benefits. Despite these findings, art is still used far too little in our healthcare. We advocate the integration of art and creativity in healthcare institutions and communities to promote health and well-being. When you are creative, the focus is no longer on incapability’s, but on what you can still do. Art encourages individuals to deal with their illnesses in a different way, it provides a sense of comfort and also helps reduce feelings of loneliness and alienation. Art can also play a role in prevention by increasing well-being and strengthening social connections in communities.

“I see it in my father. He is labelled as Alzheimer’s. It’s only about what he can no longer do. You can imagine what effect that has on his self-esteem. But now he sings every Thursday evening in a choir. He forgets a lot, but surprisingly enough not that appointment. He really doesn’t want to miss it. He says he has friends there. And it helps my mother that he is cheerful, that he tells stories.” – Tineke Abma, professor of Participation of Older People

Time for action
There are already wonderful initiatives and programs in the Netherlands that use art as care, but the field is far too fragmented. The white paper is an intersectoral exploration of Arts in Health in the Netherlands, and contains an agenda and goals for the next ten years. It serves as a call to action! The initiators emphasize the need to strengthen the field by joining forces and developing a joint vision for research, education and practice.

Click here for the English version of the white paper ‘Arts in Health in the Netherlands – A national agenda’, which was published in February 2024. Professor Tineke Abma, director of Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing is co-author of this white paper and since January 2023 Steering Committee Member of Arts in Health the Netherlands.