Center for Arts in Medicine

White Paper | Talking About Arts in Health

Executive Summary

Issue statement

While there is tremendous growth in practices and programs that use the arts in support of health worldwide, there are significant inconsistencies in terminology used to reference the discipline. These inconsistencies are challenging for professionals within and outside of the field, and particularly so for educators. Inconsistent terminology makes it difficult for practitioners, educators, funders, policy-makers, service users, and the general public to define and reference the discipline, and decades into its formal development, continues to impede progress. Clear, consistent, and descriptive language is a critical aspect of professional conduct, as boundaries are established in equal parts through ethical practice and clear terminology. Since 2009, this issue has been noted in publications from professionals around the world, yet the problem has persisted to date (Stickley et al, 2016; Dileo & Bradt, 2009; Raw, Lewis, Russell, & Macnaughton, 2012; Sonke, 2015; Sonke, Rollins, Brandman, & Graham-Pole, 2009; Sonke, Rollins, & Graham-Pole, 2016).

The Educators Roundtable Initiative

In October of 2016, the University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine, with support from the Pabst Steinmetz Foundation and the Atlantic Center for the Arts, convened a five-day roundtable of educators from universities in the United States and the United Kingdom. While the roundtable was focused on education in the United States, participation from individuals in the United Kingdom provided useful broader input. The roundtable focused on addressing language used to describe the discipline within the purview of education, rather than the field, which would be the purview of a professional field association. The roundtable was intended to examine the use of terminology and make a recommendation with the intent to unify language within and across educational programs. In preparation for the roundtable, a seven-question survey was developed to query educators and professionals regarding language preferences for referencing the discipline. Responses from 452 respondents from 14 countries were analyzed and presented to roundtable participants. Participants included ten university educators, one organization/foundation leader, and one research associate. Nine gathered in Gainesville, Florida, and three participated via Skype. Subsequent to drafting, six educators representing the U.S., the U.K., and Ireland reviewed the white paper. See Appendix A for a complete list of participants and their affiliations.

Summary of recommendations

Based on review of the field survey, field texts and literature, and educational curricula; examination of grammar, syntax, and of scope of practices; and extensive dialogue among the educators gathered, the term “arts in health” was identified as the term that, for educational purposes, best describes the discipline. The sub-disciplines of “arts in healthcare” and “arts in community health” were also identified to reference the distinct sub-domains of practice in healthcare and commu-nity settings, respectively. In the United States, the movement to incorporate the arts into healthcare is largely recognized as beginning in the 1970s. Formalized developments in applications of the arts to promote health and well-being rapidly grew into a move-ment recognized as effective in both clinical and community settings (State of the Field Committee, 2009). This movement was driven by recognition of the increased stress inherent to complex healthcare systems, and the need for diverse and innovative ways to respond to this stress. These practices have been recognized as enhancing the culture of care in health institutions and communities at large, while simultaneously advancing the need for focused education and professionalism of those practicing in this discipline (Moss & O’Neill, 2009).

This white paper was developed with generous support from the Pabst Steinmetz Foundation.

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