Brighton & Hove City Council  (15th November 2018)

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Foreword by Alistair Hill

Should we look closer at the role of arts in health?

I argue that that we should, especially in our highly creative city. The Director of Public Health’s annual report is one of the ways in which I can highlight issues and make recommendations related to the health and wellbeing of the people of Brighton & Hove. For my first report I have chosen to focus on the contribution arts and culture make to health and wellbeing locally and what more we could do. Creative Health, the 2017 report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing, concluded: “arts-based approaches can help people stay well, recover faster, manage long-term conditions and experience a better quality of life”.

The arts help us to get active, get involved and strengthen our communities. Whoever we are, wherever we live and whatever age we are, the arts can help to provide meaning to our lives, which in turn helps us become more resilient to threats to our health and wellbeing.

This relationship may seem self-evident, but the case for building the arts into our health and care system requires good quality evidence on what works (and is value for money). We have examined the strength of the evidence base and found that there is strong evidence in some areas, but that more research is required in others. The city’s thriving cultural and academic sectors represent two of its most prominent assets, so Brighton & Hove has the potential to be an international leader in research in this area.

Although in many aspects we are getting healthier, this hasn’t benefitted everyone equally. For example, in Brighton & Hove men in the most deprived areas can expect to live a decade less than those in the least deprived, while for women the gap is six years. However, many of those with the greatest health needs, such as older people and carers, engage less with the arts. Therefore, inclusive and targeted approaches are required to reach those most in need.

This report is structured around the life course through starting, living, ageing and dying well. These sections describe the health and wellbeing priorities for Brighton & Hove and present case studies that showcase local activities which make a contribution to health and wellbeing. I am aware these are only the tip of the iceberg of the extensive and diverse local activities around arts and health. These sections each end with some reflections on where there is the potential to do more.

The report closes with recommendations that support our ambition for Brighton & Hove to become a nationally recognised Centre of Excellence for the arts and culture in supporting wellbeing and reducing health inequalities.

Alistair Hill

Director of Public Health

Brighton & Hove City Council

The full annual report, The Art of Good Health, can be downloaded here