Chief Executive Blog

Thursday 12th March 2020

The marriage of Social Prescribing and the arts

This marriage has been on the cards for years.

We all know the power of our favourite poem, the track that makes us get up and dance, … These experiences make us feel great and give our lives meaning. But the relationship between health and the arts has been a story of happy moments and periods of little contact. A 2017 report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing concluded that ‘The United Kingdom is still very far from realising more than a small modicum of the potential contribution of the arts to health and wellbeing’.

GP interest in the arts is high and growing. A 2019 Aesop survey found 74% believe public engagement with the arts can make a significant contribution to the prevention agenda – up from 66% in 2018.

James Sanderson, NHS Director of Personalised Care, sees social prescribing as much more than keeping people out of the health system. He offers the exciting prospect of social prescribing being a regular part of anyone’s NHS care.’

Evidence of arts programmes improving health and wellbeing is growing.

Aesop created Dance to Health, a dance-based solution of the major health challenge of older people’s falls. It has a social prescribing element: helping communities create long-term, financially sustainable local groups.

Local Groups are ‘super social prescribing’, to quote Dr Michael Dixon, National Clinical Lead Social Prescribing at NHS England. They are ‘super’ because they have an explicit, evidence-based health dimension. Sessions are delivered by professional dance artists qualified in falls prevention exercise and, thanks to research by Sheffield Hallam University, we know that Dance to Health reduces falls by 58%.

Like any marriage, many challenges will have to be faced. One is making sure that arts opportunities are available for all who need them. A patient or GP hearing about a wonderful programme will naturally ask ‘Is it available in my area?’ Far too often the answer is ‘no’. This is one of the major topics for Aesop’s biennial conference, this year presented in partnership with the Southbank Centre.

The 2020 Conference for Health and Arts decision-makers takes place at the Southbank Centre on Friday 3rd July. Tickets go on sale today – National Social Prescribing Day.

Today will also see the National Academy for Social Prescribing launch their 2020/2021 strategy; I am looking forward to working in partnership with this fantastic new organisation in the coming months.

We are in a happy moment. I firmly believe that it will lead to a long and successful marriage between the arts and social prescribing.

Join the conversation on Twitter today with #SocialPrescibingDay

Tim Joss, Chief Executive and Founder, Aesop