The Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, was a participant in Arts 4 Dementia's London Arts Challenge

New guidance on the role of culture in improving health and wellbeing

Rebecca Atkinson, 04.03.2014
Opportunities also subject of forthcoming MA event
New guidance has been published to help museums and other culture and leisure services in England engage effectively and collaboratively in the health and wellbeing agenda.

The Chief Cultural and Leisure Officers Association (cCLOA) guidance document aims to improve understanding about the structures, frameworks and outcomes relating to public health.

It also uses case studies to illustrate the role culture and leisure can play in addressing the social determinants of health, and engaging communities, families and individuals in managing their wellbeing.

Iain Varah, chairman of cCLOA, said: “Our document highlights the importance of collaborating on the health and wellbeing agenda and is the starting point to further reposition leisure and culture in the current financial local government climate."

The role museums can play in improving people’s mental and physical health is also a key tenet of the Museums Association’s (MA) policy document Museums Change Lives.

Maurice Davies, head of policy and communications at the MA, will discuss some of the practical applications of Museums Change Lives at the forthcoming MP seminar In good health: How museums can contribute to wellbeing.

The one-day conference, which takes place on 25 March at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle, will look at how museums across the UK can make wellbeing central to their organisational aims, develop successful and long-lasting partnerships with external organisations and make the most of funding opportunities available.

Speakers include Helen Chatterjee, senior lecturer in biology and head of research and teaching for UCL Museums and Public Engagement; Paul Camic, professor of psychology and public health at Canterbury Christ Church University; and Joanne Bartholomew, director of collections and interpretation/joint chief executive officer at the Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds. (Click here for the full timetable.)

Davies said: “As the recent article on cultural commissioning in Museums Journal shows, there is a real potential for some aspects of museums’ work to be commissioned in areas such as public  health.

“The growing interest in preventative healthcare and wellbeing means there is likely to be a growing role for museums – we will be discussing the opportunities at the MP seminar in March and looking at practical ways organisations can tap into these.”

Mark Taylor, director of the MA, said: "It is clear that more and more museums see themselves as having a role in contributing to the many health agendas.

"What they often need though is guidance on how to get going, what works, what doesn’t and where the best sources of advice are. Recent issues of Museum Practice and the event in Newcastle are examples of the MA helping museums help themselves."