World Health Organization, NYU Steinhardt, Community Jameel and CULTURUNNERS launch the Jameel Arts & Health Lab to measure the impact of the arts on health

New York, USA
  • With emphasis on equity, the lab aims to radically improve global health through arts-related research and advocacy to drive policy implementation across 193 UN member states.
  • This collaboration marks the first major arts and health initiative in the history of the WHO.

The Jameel Arts & Health Lab was launched at The National Arts Club in New York today following the signing of agreements between the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Europe, the Steinhardt School at New York University (NYU), Community Jameel, and CULTURUNNERS. Focused on overlooked and underserved communities, the lab will coordinate and amplify scientific research into the effectiveness of the arts in improving health and wellbeing to drive policy implementation across 193 UN member states. The lab represents the first major arts and health initiative in the history of the WHO and follows its 2019 report on the role of the arts in preventing illness and promoting health.

Based between NYU Steinhardt and WHO's Regional Office for Europe in Copenhagen, the lab will highlight arts and health research to promote the broad integration of the arts into mainstream care. Initial projects will look at music’s effect on mothers who experience postnatal depression, the potential of cultural archives in promoting post-conflict mental health recovery, and the effectiveness of the arts in dementia care. It will also launch an international research coalition investigating the benefits of the arts in hospitals and care communities.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, commented: “The arts can be a powerful ally in our quest to improve health for all. I have seen the impact of the arts on community wellbeing, and I’m very pleased that this collaboration will help us understand the science of that impact in order to improve the lives of people from all backgrounds."

Fady Jameel, vice chairman of Community Jameel, said: “The pivotal role of the arts in health and care continues to be highlighted through an ever-expanding body of research. With the establishment of the Jameel Arts & Health Lab, we hope to leverage this research in order to advance the integration of the arts into mainstream care and improve the health and wellbeing of millions of people across the world.”

NYU Steinhardt’s Gale and Ira Drukier Dean, Jack H. Knott, added: “The Jameel Arts & Health Lab will continue the Steinhardt School’s longstanding commitment to researching the health benefits of theater, music, dance, and visual art. We continue to discover how the arts contribute to learning and healing, but we have not yet leveraged the full potential of this research. The Jameel Arts & Health Lab will lead efforts to transcend the disciplinary silos that often prevent researchers, arts practitioners, and policy makers from working together to advance understanding and impact.”

The lab will be led by Christopher Bailey and Nils Fietje at WHO, Dr Nisha Sajnani at NYU Steinhardt, and Stephen Stapleton at CULTURUNNERS, while Dr Daisy Fancourt of University College London will chair the lab’s expert steering committee. Its “Healing Arts 2023” campaign will build on previous programmes, including a 2021 symposium at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and participation at the Venice Biennale, with activations at Trinity College Dublin (Creative Brain Week), WHO headquarters in Geneva (WHO75 concert), King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Jeddah (co-hosted by Aeon Collective and the G20 Global innovation Hub), Lagos (Nigeria National Arts and Health Week), and COP28 in Dubai.

While evidence of the health benefits of the arts has existed for years, the lab’s global reach, and unique model combining research, outreach, and policy implementation, will allow it to drive systemic change around the world.

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