An Edge Hill University professor has spoken about the importance of creative activity to health and wellbeing at the UK’s first culture, health and wellbeing conference.

As part of the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance conference Professor Owen Evans, spoke of the importance of the arts in helping to keep people mentally and physically well, aid recovery and live longer, better lives.

It follows publication of his report evaluating the success of Wakefield Council’s Culture Cures annual programme which ran in 2017/18.

Culture Cures arts projects ran across three specific areas targeting issues around school readiness, intergenerational friendships and community building, encouraging participants to feel a sense of pride and connection with their neighbourhoods. Professor of Film, Owen Evans, said:

“I was delighted to be able to evaluate such a diverse cultural programme and assess its impact on health and wellbeing. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing published a report in July 2017 setting out how the arts can be used for health and wellbeing.

“In it, they said the arts help keep people well, aid recovery and support us to live happier, more fulfilled lives, which is never more relevant than with our aging population living with long-term health conditions and other issues such as loneliness and mental health.”

Owen talked to the arts organisations involved in the scheme including The Hepworth, Wakefield and The Theatre Royal, Wakefield and spoke with those who took part. He said:

“It was great to hear the fantastic impact the projects had had on people. Many were from typically hard to reach groups such as older men and Syrian refugees. Participants in many of the projects reported they felt more confident both in getting involved and in making friendships with other people. Parents and primary carers/support workers also reported closer bonds and stronger ties with the children/adults they were supporting in the activities.”

Using the Government recognised ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ document produced by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) Owen evaluated the scheme against a person’s ability to connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give.

He then wrote a report making 14 recommendations for how Culture Cures could be developed and improved for future years.

These included the creation of a cultural manifesto for wellbeing and advocating social prescribing to be adopted by health professionals.

Wakefield Council have responded to the report and have already implemented many of Owen’s suggestions for this year’s Culture Cures programme. Find out more here.