In the Loop
Faculty News : Nov 11, 2019

Arts in medicine faculty part of WHO report on arts and health interventions

Report presents evidence that the arts improve health & well-being

The new World Health Organization Report "What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being? A scoping review" (2019) was compiled by UCL Behavioural Science and Health Institute of Epidemiology & Health Associate Professor and UF Center for Arts in Medicine courtesy faculty member, Dr. Daisy Fancourt. In this first-ever report on arts in health from the WHO, Dr. Fancourt cites several UF Center for Arts in Medicine publications co-authored by Center faculty Heather Spooner, Jennifer Lee, Jill Sonke, and Dr. Judy Rollins. A link to the full report is available at the bottom of this article.

Dr. Daisy Fancourt will be in Gainesville, FL co-hosting the 2020 Arts in Health Research Intensive alongside Center director Jill Sonke in January (27 - 31). This annual networking opportunity provides training and hands-on workshops about research and arts-based research methods in the field of arts in health. Learn more at


Arts interventions, such as singing in a choir to improve chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, are considered non-invasive, low-risk treatment options and are increasingly being used by Member States to supplement more traditional biomedical treatments. The WHO Health Evidence Network (HEN) synthesis report on arts and health, which was launched on 11 November 2019, maps the global academic literature on this subject in both English and Russian. It references over 900 publications, including 200 reviews covering over 3000 further studies. As such, the report represents the most comprehensive evidence review of arts and health to date.

WHO Report Launch Event

The Findings

The report finds evidence of the contribution of the arts to the promotion of good health and the prevention of a range of mental and physical health conditions, as well as the treatment or management of acute and chronic conditions arising across the life-course. The arts can be cost-effective solutions since they can frequently draw on existing assets or resources, although more research is needed into the health economics of this field.

The report also finds that the arts may help in providing multi-sectoral, holistic and integrated people-centered care, addressing complex challenges for which there are no current healthcare solutions. As such, the arts could help countries reach the integrated targets of key global frameworks, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Thirteenth WHO General Programme of Work, 2019–2023, which aim to increase human capital, reduce inequity and promote multi-sectoral action for health and well-being.

Prevention and Promotion

The arts may:

- Affect the social determinants of health (e.g. Developing social cohesion and reducing social inequalities and inequities);

- Support child development (e.g. Enhancing mother–infant bonding and supporting speech and language acquisition);

- Encourage health-promoting behaviours (e.g. Through promoting healthy living or encouraging engagement with health care);

- Help to prevent ill health (including enhancing well-being and reducing the impact of trauma or the risk of cognitive decline); and

- Support caregiving (including enhancing our understanding of health and improving clinical skills).

Management and Treatment

The arts may:

- Help people experiencing mental illness at all stages of the life-course (e.g. by supporting recovery from perinatal mental illness and after trauma and abuse);

- Support care for people with acute conditions (e.g. by improving the experience of and outcomes in care for hospital inpatients and individuals in intensive care);

- Support people with neurological disorders (including autism, cerebral palsy, stroke, degenerative neurological disorders and dementias);

- Assist in the treatment of noncommunicable diseases (including cancer, lung disease, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases); and

- Support end-of-life care (including palliative care and bereavement).

UF Faculty Works Cited in Report

230. Sonke J, Pesata V, Nakazibwe V, Ssenyonjo J, Lloyd R, Espino D et al. The arts and health communication in Uganda: a light under the table. Health Commun. 2018;33(4):401–8. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2016.1266743.

242. Sonke J, Pesata V. The arts and health messaging: exploring the evidence and lessons from the 2014 Ebola outbreak. BMJ Outcomes. 2015;1:36–41.

301. Powers JS, Heim D, Grant B, Rollins J. Music therapy to promote movement from isolation to community in homeless veterans. Tenn Med. 2012;105(1):38–9. PMID: 22359994.

304. Levy CE, Spooner H, Baxley Lee J, Sonke J. Telehealth-based creative arts therapy: transforming mental health and rehabilitation care for rural veterans. Arts Psychother. 2018;57:20–6. doi: 10.1016/j.aip.2017.08.010

308. Rollins J, King E. Promoting coping for children of hospitalized service members with combat injuries through creative arts engagement. Arts Health. 2015;7(2):109–22. doi: 10.1080/17533015.2015.1019707.

629. Rollins J, Wallace KE. The vintage photograph project. Arts Health. 2017;9(2):167–85. doi: 10.1080/17533015.2016.1223706.

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To learn more about our online graduate program and become an arts in health researcher visit:

To read the full report, please visit: