Camilla Greenwell © Breathe Arts Health Research, Breathe Melodies for Mums Programme

Across the Life Course

Creative health approaches and activities can contribute to healthy lives at every age from birth to death

Key areas of focus

Maternity & Early Years

Maternity services are a key clinical priority in the NHS Long-term plan, with particular concerns about the disparity in outcomes for pregnant women highlighted by the MBRACE reports.  A maternity disparities taskforce has been established to explore inequalities in maternity care, and help meet the CORE20PLUS5 target of ensuring continuity of care for 75% of women from ethnic minority communities and the most deprived groups. 

The WHO Scoping Review identifies a number of studies linking creative health to maternity.  The arts can be used prior to birth to reduce anxiety and improve readiness for parenthood during childbirth (for example, listening to music to reduce anxiety and pain), in neonatal care (to alleviate stress in parents and children to reduce anxiety and mental health conditions such as postnatal depression in new mothers. Music has been shown to play an important role in mother-infant bonding. 

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BREATHE Arts Health Research – Melodies for mums project provides singing and music sessions for mothers at risk of post-natal depression and their babies. As well as tackling a challenging issue with low uptake of clinical treatments, the programme has been shown to be a good way to engage mothers from minority backgrounds.

Muso Baby Social Prescribing Pilot Music and sensory play sessions in Manchester Museum to encourage bonding between parent and child and peer support opportunities. 

Art at the Start provides parent-infant art therapy services in art galleries across Scotland.  A collaboration between an art therapist and an experimental psychologist, the project aims to publish high quality research as it progresses.

In partnership with Sands the Still Parents Project at the Whitworth art Gallery is designed to open up conversations around baby loss.  The project provides informal workshops with artists to explore experiences through creativity, leading to a co-produced exhibition.

Children & Young People

One of the recommendations of the Marmot Review was to give every child the best start in life, to reduce future health inequalities. The NHS Long Term Plan makes specific commitments to improve mental health services for children and young people (CYP). Mental health conditions in CYP have been rising, with particular concerns around the impact of Covid-19, climate change and social media. Mental Health Support Teams and Mental Health Leads have been introduced in some schools and colleges in a joint initiative between the NHS and the Department for Education.

Evidence in the WHO Scoping Review shows that for children living with disadvantage, the arts can promote social inclusion, skills development, capacity building and improve health outcomes. The Wellcome scoping review, ‘What science has shown can help young people with anxiety and depression’ finds that arts-based interventions can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression through enabling- self-expression, developing personal vocabularies and providing a safe-space. Strong positive outcomes were found for young people who had experienced trauma.Older Adults

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Evoke in Kirklees are developing a pilot study for social prescribing in six education sites.  The objectives are to change culture by encouraging young people to use creative approaches to manage their own mental health and well-being and to support and encourage teachers to use creative solutions in the class room.  The project aims to reduce inequalities and reduce stigma.

KAZZUM Arts’ Apollo project takes place within hospitals and uses the arts to increase the wellbeing of children who are undergoing healthcare and mental health treatments on children’s wards.

ICE – Inspire, Create, Exchange is a series of free arts workshops and creative opportunities, for young people known to Hampshire CAMHS.

Intermission Youth uses drama – particularly Shakespeare– to explore challenging issues through a Youth theatre programme, work in schools, pupil referral units, young offenders’ institutions and prisons.  Intermission Youth raises aspirations and inspires people to make positive choices in their lives.

Adults of working age

The NHS faces the challenges of post-Covid recovery, an ageing population and changing patterns of disease, particularly increases in complex and long-term conditions, and poor mental health in working-age adults. Policy developments (set out in the NHS Long-term plan and the Health and Care Act 2022) pave the way for a more integrated and personalised approach to health and social care, with a greater emphasis on prevention and creating the wider social and environmental conditions for good health. The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) will prioritise health improvement, prevention of poor health and tackling health inequalities, which will feed into the government’s levelling up agenda.

Work is closely linked to health.  Evidence shows that being in work is linked to good health, where the work is safe, secure and with good working conditions (Public Health England). Creative health approaches can be used to help people build skills and confidence to enter the workforce and to improve health in the workplace.

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Art at the Heart – Artworks for Wellbeing provides workplace wellbeing programmes to support employee happiness and facilitate teambuilding.

LIME Art supports the mental health and wellbeing of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust staff through creative workshops.

In 2021 Artlift completed an Enterprise Development Programme supported feasibility study, including market research and a learning programme with other mental health service providers. This resulted in devising of Workplace Wellbeing Packages piloted with the Pain Management team in Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and with The Southbank Centre in London. Packages are designed to support team wellbeing and cohesion.

Older Adults

The UK has an ageing population, and people are living longer with an increased number of long-term conditions. It is important that people are able to live independently and in good health for as long as possible, which requires joined-up and personalised care. People at the Heart of Care: Adult Social Care Reform White Paper emphasises keeping people healthier for longer. Dementia is a key priority for the NHS and a new strategy on dementia is expected from DHSC in 2022. Loneliness or social isolation affects many older people and can have significant health impacts. A government loneliness strategy aims to reduce this.

Age UK’s Index of Wellbeing in later life found that creative and cultural engagement had the biggest impact. Older and Wiser? Creative Ageing in the UK highlights the scope of creative ageing activities across the UK and notes health and wellbeing benefits including a reduction in loneliness and isolation. Dance programmes can reduce frailty and prevent falls and improves movement, balance and expression for people with dementia. The 2022 Power of Music report makes recommendations for integrating music into health and social care pathways, highlighting its use with dementia.

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The Creative Ageing strand of Great Place Greater Manchester looked at what makes a thriving, creative ageing ecosystem; from supporting older, professional artists to developing age friendly programming and audiences.  This included roll out of the flagship Culture Champions project.  

Creative Ageing from Entelechy Arts is broad-ranging artistic programme which combats loneliness through imaginative, beautiful and courageous projects, created in collaboration with people over 65 years old.

Dance to Health is a nationwide falls prevention programme.

Part of the SHAPER programme, the English National Ballet offers a Dance for Parkinson’s programme, welcoming people living with Parkinson’s, along with their families, loved ones and carers.