Do The Politicians 'Get' Creative Health?

Creative Health is always part of a bigger picture
Colin Petch
June 26, 2024

With just over a week to go until the UK General Election, The National Centre for Creative Health (NCCH) and the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance (CHWA) have jointly produced a briefing note, some key information and a template letter for anyone in the creative community who understands how crucial discussing Creative Health is with those hoping to represent us as part of a new administration.‍

While creativity can without-doubt support health and wellbeing - it is also true that many creative practitioners suffer anxiety, stress, depression and other health-related issues as a result of choosing to work in the sector. A 2020 survey by the Creative Industries Federation reported that almost 50% of creative workers questioned had experienced one or more of the above issues in the previous year.

The National Centre for Creative Health (NCCH) and the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance (CHWA) are anxious to make sure that parliamentary candidates are aware of Creative Health and the benefits it can bring across a range of policy areas. The paper contains information that it urges creative workers to put to their prospective parliamentary candidates about Creative Health in the run-up to the election.‍

The work of those in the creative sector represents an essential component of a functioning, happy society - and it is unrealistic that an industry that was responsible for adding GVA (gross value added) of £126bn to the UK economy in 2022 - should wait patiently to find out how ‘the next lot’ view their contribution.

Writing to candidates or having conversations with them when they come to our doorstep, or at local hustings are actions that the electorate can employ to communicate with our future government. 

It is vitally important to ask candidates to commit to supporting Creative Health, but it is incumbent on all of us to highlight examples of Creative Health happening in our own constituencies. Up-to-date information about candidates in your area is available from The Electoral Commission

Creative Health is defined as creative approaches and activities which have benefits for our health and wellbeing. Activities might include visual and performing arts, crafts, film, literature, cooking and creative activities in nature, such as gardening. Approaches may involve creative and innovative ways to interact with health and care services, co-production, education and workforce development. 

Creative Health can be applied in homes, communities, cultural institutions and heritage sites, and healthcare settings. Creative Health can contribute to the prevention of ill-health, promotion of healthy behaviours, management of long-term conditions, and treatment and recovery across the life course. Creative Health is also always part of a bigger picture. Its underpinning values and principles, as articulated in the CHWA Creative Health Quality Framework, are shared across numerous social concerns from climate change to migrancy. 

Creative Health has benefits for individuals, communities and systems. It can help to reduce health inequalities and contribute to a healthy and flourishing society. The Creative Health Review – How Policy Can Embrace Creative Health, published by NCCH with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts Health and Wellbeing in December 2023, sets out these key messages: 

• Creative Health is fundamental to a healthy and prosperous society, and its benefits should be available and accessible to all. 

• Creative Health should form an integral part of a 21st-century health and social care system – one that is holistic, person-centred, and which focuses on reducing inequalities and supporting people to live well for longer. 

• Creating the conditions for Creative Health to flourish requires a joined-up, whole-system approach incorporating health systems, local authorities, schools, and the cultural and VCSE sectors. 

Illustration By Robin-Lane Roberts For Kazzum Arts
Illustration By Robin-Lane Roberts For Kazzum Arts

Creative Health supports mental and physical health and wellbeing across the life course. It can be used to prevent, manage and treat a range of health conditions including those which place significant burden on health and social care services, such as respiratory and cardiovascular disease. It offers a holistic and person-centred approach to improving quality of life and empowering people to manage their health, reducing pressures on health and social care services and supporting people to remain in employment. 

Creative Health interventions are cost-effective, resulting in savings to systems through reduced healthcare usage and unnecessary prescriptions. Creative Health also supports workforce wellbeing in the NHS and social care settings. 

Creative activities improve mental health, resilience and job satisfaction in staff and are linked to improved retention rates. Evidence shows that creative activities such as music, singing and visual arts can delay cognitive decline and support the health and wellbeing of people living with dementia. 

Creative Health offers meaningful activity and social connection, vital in reducing loneliness and the associated health impacts, particularly in older age. Arts activities in care homes provide a good social return on investment. 

Given the link between creativity, culture and health, it is vital that creative opportunities are available to all. The infrastructure for Creative Health should be supported and resourced, and the link between creative industries and health and social care must be recognised in policy, with the wider value of creativity incorporated into economic assessments and funding decisions. 

Creative Health can help every child get the best start in life, and therefore creativity should be a pillar of the school curriculum. In schools, creative activities equip children with the tools to support their mental health and wellbeing, and transferable skills that will improve future outcomes, as well as producing the creatives of the future.

Creative Health addresses health inequalities through activities that build social capital and cohesion at community level, and that influence the social determinants of health to improve the environments in which people live. It can be a vital component of a regeneration strategy, instilling a sense of pride in place and community ownership of local creative and cultural assets. 

Creative Health supports health promotion and health creation, and is used in the co-design of culturally appropriate services, which meet the needs of underserved communities and encourage new ways of working within systems. 

It is essential that the next government can make sure Creative Health flourishes. The Creative Health Review recommends the development of a cross-departmental Creative Health Strategy, driven by the Prime Minister, co-ordinated by the Cabinet Office and supported through ministerial commitment to ensure the integration of Creative Health across all relevant policies.

Lived experience experts should be integral to the development of the strategy. Further recommendations to specific government departments are also outlined in the Review - which is a document any creative practitioner who might be under-pressure and struggling to justify their existence - should read. 

Header Image: Equal Arts Carers' Cultural Adventurers' Group flying their handmade Korean flags. (Dani Giddins)