A word from the President of the new Alliance Lord Howarth of Newport
I am delighted to be able to contribute to the first issue of the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance bulletin in my new role as President. We had a very successful launch of the alliance at the Birmingham Museum on 13th March with a moving performance from the Choir With No Name. Some of you will have been in the audience so I won’t repeat what I said in my speech, but would like to say that it seems to me a very significant moment in the development of this field. The Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance can make an important contribution in helping us to draw together and create a shared vision, strengthening all of our work through the exchange of knowledge and experience. Many of you will know of me as Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing which I founded in 2014 with a group of MPs and Peers who share my commitment and belief in the important contribution that the arts can make to our health and wellbeing. As you may know, the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance will take on responsibility for the secretariat of the APPG and I have been asked to give you a brief update on our current programme of work.
Since the publication of Creative Health last July, we have been working to engage parliamentarians and encourage decision makers and others to pursue the ten recommendations laid out in the report. Dr Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt, who researched and drafted Creative Health, secured further funding from the AHRC to continue her work at King’s College London and disseminate the report at health and social care conferences and events around the country. The original inquiry funding is supporting a series of nine events organised by the regional leads from the National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing in partnership with health providers. In October, the Westminster Hall debate, led by our Co-Chair, Ed Vaizey, involved 12 MPs talking about arts and health with many examples of projects from around the country. We have brought together a working group of people who were involved in the original inquiry process and who represent the range of stakeholders we want to engage with: academics, arts practitioners, health and social care professionals, policy makers and service users. We are very grateful to Wellcome and Paul Hamlyn Foundation for funding this next phase of work, including a feasibility study on recommendation 1 which is being delivered by the King’s Fund.
We are holding a further series of round tables and bringing together groups of people who can help us influence take-up of the recommendations. We have heard from participants that the report is a useful tool in advocating for the work. We are sending copies of the report to Chief Executives or Chairs of all clinical commissioning groups, health and wellbeing boards, local authorities and NHS trusts across the country, with letters co-signed by some of our most influential endorsers, urging them to identify an individual at senior level to take responsibility for arts and health policy in their organisation. You can help us with this and other recommendations by lobbying at a local, regional or national level, working within your personal and professional circles of influence to advocate for the benefits of the arts and cultural engagement for health and wellbeing. In the report we identified culture change as the main challenge. Despite all the difficulties that we face as a country, there are great opportunities in times of flux and we have found that there is more receptiveness amongst key decision makers and stakeholder groups than we might have anticipated. We find that we are part of a movement for change within health and social care, from illness and hospital-centred services to a focus on prevention and wellness, towards a healthy and health-creating society.