• May 30, 2024

Creative health innovation 2023

I published A Social Glue with Dr. Clive Parkinson during the epidemic. This was a polemic and a call to action, born of the issues we faced and motivated by the great possibility and energy we felt surrounding creative health.

A Social Glue rightly highlighted Greater Manchester as a creative health vanguard, but it also challenged local cultural, health, and social care leaders to make a bold commitment to recognizing culture and creativity as essential to the health and wellbeing of our 2.8 million residents.

In May, the Greater Manchester NHS had a Creative Health Strategy and an Integrated Care Partnership Strategy. Both said arts and culture help reduce citywide health and well-being inequities. Commissioners, physicians, local authorities, the voluntary sector, and the cultural sector are co-designing delivery strategies with us.

Systemic obstacles

We started by mapping existing creative health practice. We recorded the work of cultural sector organizations and previously undisclosed activities in church organizations, local community centers, and social prescribing programs.

We’re also talking to cultural organizations and freelancing creatives about training and assistance. We’re learning about structural impediments to creative methods by talking to people across health and social care about their experiences.

We’re examining how creative health practitioners may access health sector training through strategic relationships with health education providers. Our engagement with social prescribing delivery organizations will help us create sustainable creative health possibilities in, with, and for communities.

According to the 2010 and 2020 Marmot Reviews, Greater Manchester must address socioeconomic determinants of health. Socioeconomic position, education, occupation, gender, and ethnicity are non-medical health determinants.

Social determinants of health rarely included culture before recently. We need to speak louder about how culture can contribute to a bold vision of public sector reform and health fairness with communities at the center.

Our creative health strategy not only addresses how creative practice can help people with Long Covid, young people with mental health issues, and older people with dementia but also proposes a new person-centered and community-based approach to health.

Strengthening what works

My creative health practice began as a volunteer theatre project in a Brazilian high-security jail. I saw how important culture and creativity were to everyone, regardless of where they lived. Our strategy, which focuses on the complete life course and relies on people’s strengths rather than their weaknesses, reflects our conviction in the basic right to creative expression and health and care.

The Culture, Health, and Wellbeing Alliance is now an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, and the National Centre for Creative Health is conducting a thorough creative health evaluation.

The National Academy for Social Prescribing received major funding to foster innovative health practice. These friends and collaborators, together with Greater Manchester creative health specialists Arc, START, 42nd Street, Made by Mortals, and others, are part of a city-region transformation movement.

Needing allies

Greater Manchester is experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime tsunami of energy, passion, and innovative health opportunities. We must let this excitement distract us from our policy goal: to minimize health disparity (unfair and preventable inequalities in health among groups) and help people live happier and healthier lives, regardless of postcode.

It’s hard. Our delivery strategy addresses commissions, evidence, training, practitioner support, and finance despite numerous open doors. We cannot fix these alone.

We have significant friends in health, social care, and local government, a research relationship with the University of Manchester, and policy specialists Culture Commons to generate new national and international alliances.

Culture and health are human rights. I am blessed to lead creative health in Greater Manchester and make dynamic and happy interactions with colleagues locally and abroad. Join us.

NHS Greater Manchester Integrated Care Creative Health Strategic Lead Julie McCarthy.

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