Ground-breaking research series on health benefits of the arts announced on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly

New York, USA

The Jameel Arts & Health Lab has announced a forthcoming Lancet Global Series on the health benefits of the arts, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO). The series, titled the 'Jameel Arts & Health Lab - Lancet global series' was announced on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at a special WHO75 Wellbeing Concert and Reception at Carnegie Hall as part of UNGA Healing Arts Week. It featured performances by multi-Grammy award-winning Mezzo-Soprano Joyce DiDonato, and Metropolitan Opera pianist Howard Watkins.

The 'Jameel Arts & Health Lab - Lancet global series' builds on a 2019 WHO Report that presented evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and wellbeing. The report identified the contribution that the arts may have in promoting good health and health equity, preventing illness, and treating acute and chronic conditions across the life-course. These activities can range from dance programmes for people with Parkinson’s Disease, music therapy for pain management, and drama therapy to support social-emotional development, among many others.

The research series will be grounded on a novel conceptual framework on the important role of the arts in supporting health. It will focus on noncommunicable diseases, a leading cause of death and disability worldwide. It will also raise awareness about the existing evidence base and offer recommendations to improve global policy guidance on topics such as scaling up promising interventions through social prescribing and intersectoral collaboration between the arts, health, education, and social care sectors.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, chief scientist at the WHO said: "For too long we have seen science and the arts as separate endeavours. But these silos were not always so. Throughout much of human history, the creative interface of different disciplines has been a catalyst for both innovation and healing. I am delighted that this Jameel Arts & Health Lab - Lancet global series will show the scientific basis of the arts’ role in health with rigour and help position artists and scientists as necessary partners towards health and wellbeing for all."

Dr Nisha Sajnani, founding co-director at the Jameel Arts & Health Lab and associate professor at NYU Steinhardt, said: “Through this collaboration with The Lancet, we are bringing together researchers from 18 countries to examine if and how engaging in the arts, be it in a clinic, a classroom, a concert, or in a community can improve health outcomes for people across the life course.”

Dr Miriam Lewis Sabin, North American executive editor at The Lancet, said: “The Lancet is pleased to convene this series on the centrality of the arts in health— a topic that has been too long neglected by the health sector and donors. The arts must be seen as both central to the human experience and important in the maintenance of good health. This Lancet Series will hopefully provide the foundation of evidence needed to ensure that the arts will be viewed as essential, in particular, to prevent and support people with noncommunicable diseases.”

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, where balcony performances and home window exhibits inspired hope and connection, there has also been high-profile engagement from major cultural institutions, artists, and media platforms calling attention to the relationship between the arts, culture and health.

Clive Gillinson, executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall, said: “Through our own experiences with Carnegie Hall’s music education and social impact programs, we’ve seen the positive impact that the arts can have on people’s health and wellbeing, building stronger family bonds and overall sense of community. We’re delighted to partner with the Jameel Arts & Health Lab, the WHO and the Lancet to welcome researchers, policymakers, and members of the healthcare and cultural communities to Carnegie Hall to put a spotlight on this important area of study.”

The concert was followed by a meeting of over 50 researchers from universities around the world at New York University Steinhardt to start the series, which is anticipated to be published in late 2024.

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