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Free Content Arts on prescription for older people: Different stakeholder perspectives on the challenges of providing evidence of impact on health outcomes

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Providing evidence of health or well-being outcomes for arts on prescription (AoP) programmes for older people is problematic. A number of reports have shown that the Department of Health (DoH) supports the role of art in health (ACE 2007a; 2007b, Cayton 2007), but this has not translated into long-term, strategic funding. This article uses interviews with health, arts and voluntary sector professionals involved in five AoP programmes in England, UK, to provide an understanding of the challenges of providing evidence and of sustaining such work. Interviewees noted the tension between arts and health requirements, arguing that quantitative evaluation fails to capture the process of participation and the impact of programmes within the context of an individual’s life. However, using both qualitative and quantitative methods and demonstrating cost-savings was felt necessary. The substantial changes the National Health Service (NHS) is undergoing presents threats to embedding AoP in the light of financial cuts and opportunities through new commissioning structures. To attempt to gain policy support from the DoH and sustained funding from the NHS, the development of quantitative evaluation of health outcomes and demonstration of cost-savings alongside qualitative evaluation is recommended. Despite being in a relatively weak position in terms of influencing health policy, the article also recommends arts organizations invest energy in advocacy.

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Keywords: arts and health; arts and health policy; arts on prescription; evaluation; older people; outcomes; well-being

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Newcastle University

Publication date: June 1, 2014

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  • The Journal of Applied Arts and Health serves a wide community of artists, researchers, practitioners and policy-makers evidencing the effectiveness of the interdisciplinary use of arts in health and arts for health. It provides a forum for the publication and debate within an interdisciplinary field of arts in healthcare and health promotion. The journal defines 'health' broadly which includes physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, occupational, social and community health.
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