Arts and Health

The Arts and Health Pilot Program is a joint initiative between the Health Directorate and artsACT.

Comprehensive national and international research has repeatedly demonstrated that arts programs and activities make significant contributions to health outcomes. Evidence based research demonstrates that participation in the arts leads to improved mental and physical health including reduced stress, maintenance of mental health, promoted healing, sustained brain development and increased referrals to health services.

The National Arts and Health Framework was endorsed at a Meeting of Health Ministers on 11 November 2013. 

The key policy objective of the Arts in Health Program is to enhance The Canberra Hospital and more broadly the delivery of health services to the Canberra community.

The two new buildings on the Canberra Hospital campus have become the flagships of the Arts in Health Program; the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children and the Canberra Region Cancer Centre.

The Arts and Health Pilot Program supports the first principle of the 2015 ACT Arts Policy, Participation and access to the arts.

To support the Canberra Hospital and Health Services Arts in Health Program please visit the Canberra Hospital Foundation websiteExternal Link  

Report on Art at the Canberra Hospital

In 2015, ACT Health and artsACT jointly commissioned an independent evaluation of the arts program at the Canberra Hospital as a pilot project. The project was led by Raoul Craemer from Econtext, with assistance from Bill Smith from Ecological Associates and Raj Mahajan from ThinkPlace Australia. 

This project sought to identify and evaluate the impact of the artworks which are currently on display in the Canberra Hospital on staff, patients, and carers/visitors. The Executive Summary is available below.  

Executive Summary

Art programs in hospitals are becoming standard practice in OECD countries. Positive impacts of art in hospitals include reductions in anxiety and fear, temporary relief from pain, higher staff satisfaction, and a better connection to the local community.

The key findings of our survey of 300 patients, visitors/carers and staff members and 12 detailed follow-up interviews were:

  • Around 90% of those surveyed for this evaluation noticed and liked the art at the Canberra Hospital.
  • A similar proportion also wanted more art in the hospital.
  • Up to 15% of the variation in hospital satisfaction may be explained by the impact of art.
  • A wide variety of art is appreciated – portraits, landscapes, abstract art, photographs, quilts, sculptures, wood cuts, mosaics and digital art.
  • Colourful, uplifting images were generally preferred.
  • Poor health status does not necessarily lead to respondents appreciating art less.

The survey conducted for this evaluation also strongly validated the impact of the professional curatorial process at two Flagship locations – the Canberra Region Cancer Centre and the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children.

The findings indicate that art provides an effective way of connecting with large numbers of patients and carers and of communicating the established standards of excellence and care that are often perceived with difficulty through the veil of traumatic personal experience.

A simple cost-benefit analysis based on benefits that could be derived from art at The Canberra Hospital indicates that an annual budget for the art program of $300,000 would easily be recouped in terms of cost savings and the value of benefits using a statistical life year approach.

The evaluation also identified that there would likely be value in:

  • carrying out a more controlled ‘before-and-after’ comparison; 
  • a retrospective analysis of existing hospital financial and other data;
  • further analysis of the survey data; and
  • collaborating with other hospitals to replicate the survey.

You can download the full PDF version of the document here:

Report on Art at the Canberra Hospital (PDF 2.1MB)PDF

Diary of a Wombat

Photo by Ross Buchanan: Jackie French and Bruce Whatley, co-creators of the Diary of a Wombat phenomenon, with Ethan Summerell. The images from Baby Wombat’s Week, were kindly donated by the artists, were perfect for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children. Thanks also to the Costco community through the NewBorn November Appeal, in conjunction with The Canberra Hospital Foundation, for fabrication.