Farnham Maltings’ Arts& Health asked The Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt: “What is Arts & Health?”

The Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt has been UK Secretary of State for Health since 2012 and is Member of Parliament for South West Surrey. He was previously Culture Secretary (2010–12). 

FMA&H: We are currently piloting Care for Dementia Carers’ supporting carers of people with dementia through drama and ‘Chaos Choir’ aimed at redressing post natal depression and isolation.  We want to take both to scale nationwide.  How can we work together to ensure that carers’ initiatives that engage with the arts are given a platform and resources to roll out across the UK to areas where support is lower?
RHJH: My department, alongside Public Health England, have already developed an evaluation framework for arts and health and wellbeing.

This framework launched in February was developed in conjunction with the organisation Arts Enterprise with a Social Purpose (ASEOP). It provides a standard framework which arts projects can use to demonstrate their value and demonstrate robust evidence to commissioners etc about the difference their project makes to local populations.

This would be a beneficial first step in being able to demonstrate robust evaluation of the great work going on at the Maltings.

FMA&H: Are there any specific examples of Arts & Health working well together which you would like to see Farnham Maltings develop further? 
RHJH: There are many great examples of work being conducted throughout the country. The Baring Foundation and ASEOP are good places to find out more about this.  Just a few examples:

o        A pilot in NE London on the benefit of introducing evidence based exercises as dance classes for falls prevention;

o        Breathe Magic, a programme that adapts magic tricks and performance skills into therapy for children with motor disorders such as hemiplegia;

o        Choirs which promote the benefits of regular group singing for people with COPD and other respiratory conditions;

o        Shared Reading schemes for good mental health and wellbeing;

o        Street dance groups in Leeds helping to reduce inequalities in children’s physical activity and wellbeing

FMA&H: Since October 2015, Farnham Maltings has run a group aimed at redressing loneliness and isolation called ‘Meet Me at the Maltings’.  Given the nature of the issue, lonely or isolated people are hard to reach, often with limited access to internet and social media.  We need local doctors and social services to refer to us. What do you think would encourage health professionals to refer patients within their care to tailored arts programmes? 
RHJH: I think building links with the local health and wellbeing board, clinical commissioning group and local authority would be helpful first step.

I believe it would also be effective if you work to educate the local care-coordinators, social workers, occupational therapist and community nurses about the services that you provide and the benefits that they could bring to individuals, their families and the community.  

FMA&H: Arts & Health is a relatively new sector which straddles two of the things we are best at in this country.  One could argue that it’s common sense – that drumming makes people feel better – however, deeper research shows that drumming can also be anti-inflammatory, so, clearly, subjecting the arts to the rigours of health research can unveil outcomes beneficial to both. Isn’t it in all of our interests to explore how art forms respond to clinical trials to medically prove the benefits of craft or mindfulness?
RHJH: The Government’s recent Culture White Paper noted the benefit of the arts to health and wellbeing.

My department, alongside Public Health England, have already developed an evaluation framework for arts and health and wellbeing.

The APPG into Arts and Health has been launched with a yearlong programme, which will lead to an event next June. Part of their programme will be to examine further the evidence and identify areas which need further exploration. My department will be closely linking in with the work.

FMA&H: We are passionate about being useful and the value of the arts in all our lives.  How do we best make the case to the Health sector for their value?  How do we best make the case that this area a good, cost effective, way forward?
RHJH: The evaluation framework recently published by PHE would be the first place to look, as it is full of ways to support you to provide robust evidence for commissioners.

The Arts Council-funded Cultural Commissioning Programme aims to help the arts and cultural sector to better engage in public sector commissioning, and support public sector commissioners develop an awareness of the potential for arts and cultural organisations to deliver their outcomes.

FMA&H: What would you hope for in the future in terms of arts and health? How might we achieve more connections?
RHJH: Incredible work is being done in this space already.  I was lucky enough to see the benefits of programmes such as Breathe Magic, The Reader and Dance to Health, at an Arts and Health showcase earlier this year, and have also seen how visual arts and song help patients young and old in community and medical settings.

I want the arts and health to become more of the norm in our communities and care environments as opposed to the exception. Building a strong evidence base behind these interventions is the best place to start.

My department will work with DCMS, Arts Council and Public Health England and others to build on the findings of previous work along with the recommendations made by the All Party Parliamentary Group enquiry on Arts and Health and Wellbeing, which will report next year.

FMA&H: Given your unique history as Secretary of State for Culture and now Health what synergies are we missing?
RHJH: The biggest area is mental health. I am sure art and culture can have a massive role in boosting mental good health and we are only on the tip of iceberg.
FMA&H:    Finally, how would you personally define ‘Arts & Health’?
RHJH: They are quite different – but we all need good health and good art in our lives.

 Farnham Maltings Arts and Health would like to thank the Rt. Hon Jeremby Hunt for his time in answering our questions.