Arts and Health

Comprehensive national and international research has demonstrated that arts programs and activities make significant contributions to health outcomes. 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.

Art at the Canberra Hospital

The Arts and Health Pilot Program was a joint initiative between the Health Directorate and artsACT. Its main objective was to enhance Canberra Hospital’s Centenary Hospital for Women and Children, and the Canberra Region Cancer Centre buildings.

In 2015, ACT Health and artsACT jointly commissioned an independent evaluation of the program. The project was led by Raoul Craemer from Econtext, with assistance from Bill Smith from Ecological Associates and Raj Mahajan from ThinkPlace Australia. It evaluated the impact of the artworks on staff, patients, and carers/visitors. The key findings of a survey of 300 patients, visitors/carers and staff members and 12 detailed follow-up interviews were:

  • Around 90% of those surveyed 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 findings indicated 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. The survey also strongly validated the impact of a professional arts curatorial process.

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

The evaluation also identified 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 Report on Art at the Canberra Hospital (PDF 2.1MB)PDF

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

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, 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 New Born November Appeal, in conjunction with The Canberra Hospital Foundation, for fabrication.