Proceedings from the Arts and the Heart Roundtable (AHR) are being released by the Foundation for Art & Healing. The AHR is a gathering of luminaries from the medical, arts and public health sectors regarding the connection between creative engagement and cardiac health.
Held during the summer of 2009 in New York, the goal of the meeting was to draw on research and clinical expertise as well as the direct experiences of cardiac patients who have found creative endeavors to aid in their own personal healing processes. The Roundtable participants concurred with the findings of the research review (since published in the American Journal of Public Health
, February 2010) as related to cardiac health, calling for a greater range of research both in establishing the connection between creative engagement and positive changes in cardiac health, as well further understanding the connection. The Foundation has responded to this call for action, planning multiple pilot programs that will not only directly connect individuals with the healing power of creative engagement, but provide populations among which to conduct further evaluation and research.
"We were quite pleased with the participation in and results of the AHR," stated Jeremy Nobel, MD, MPH, Founder and President of the Foundation for Art & Healing. "The body of research connecting creative engagement to healing outcomes is compelling and it was wonderful to discuss what more could be done with such a fantastic group of minds."
"Put simply, heart disease is affected by emotion and we know that art deals with emotion," said Joshua Smyth, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Syracuse University. "Positive physiological and psychological changes occur in the individual who is creatively engaged. Although our current understanding of this relationship is in its infancy, millions of people can potentially be helped by combining creative engagement with more traditional biomedical treatments."
As described a bit more poetically by Edward Hirsch, poet and President of the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, "The activity of making something artistically is transformative but not entirely rational. Individuals take their obsession, grief, pain, and hope and try to turn it into something. This 'making' may not result in a cure, but it is ultimately healing."
Harlan M. Krumholz, MD, SM, a leading cardiologist and Professor at the Yale University School of Medicine agreed by saying, "If we can demonstrate that emotion affects outcomes and art affects emotion, then a logical path to better outcomes would involve more attention to engaging people in artistic pursuits."
The growing body of research referenced by Dr. Nobel and reviewed at the Roundtable was recently highlighted in an article published in the February 2010 edition of the American Journal of Public Health
. Titled "The Connection Between Art, Healing & Public Health: A Review of Current Literature," the article demonstrated that although there is evidence that art-based interventions are effective in reducing adverse physiological and psychological outcomes, the extent to which these interventions enhance health status is largely unknown.
In addition to reviewing the existing and potential research in this area, the AHR panel also discussed creating programmatic models for engagement of multiple populations that could provide immediate public benefit and serve as evaluation sites. Significant discussion focused on workplace-based programming opportunities, recognizing the current interest of employers in the health of their employees, and the potentially sizable populations available in which one could pilot programs and conduct evaluations of the impact.
For example, Roundtable participant Steven M. Safyer, MD, CEO of Montefiore Medical Center, said he could foresee an immediate benefit for his institution. "There are 17,000 employees working at Montefiore right now, who could probably benefit from this type of approach, not to mention the patients, families and communities we serve," said Safyer. "There is no reason not to get started now!"