Reimagining the Future of Arts in Health at the 2018 NOAH Conference
The second annual National Organization for Arts in Health (NOAH) conference, part of the Healthcare Facilities Symposium and Expo, took place in Austin, TX this past October 2018. This dynamic event provided opportunities for a highly interdisciplinary cohort, including researchers, public health officials, policy makers, healthcare professionals and artists, to share knowledge at the intersection of arts and healthcare. NOAH President Todd Frazier remarked, “The conference grew in all the right ways—in diversity of attendees, in balance, timeliness and quality of presentations…in bringing the membership together in an active way.” As arts-centered approaches in medicine continue to gain momentum, this year’s conference, themed Reimagining the Future of Arts in Health, focused on innovative programming and the importance of research initiatives to move the field forward.
Professionalizing The Field
While awareness of the therapeutic value of the arts has increased significantly, integrating arts into mainstream care is not without its challenges. One of the main hurdles is mapping and defining the different approaches to arts and healthcare and subsequently identifying how professionals should embrace their work in a way that maintains the integrity of the discipline and fosters collaboration. To address this, NOAH is in the process of developing a curriculum for arts-in-health professionals that will become the foundation for a professional certification in the future.
Art therapy researcher Dr. Girija Kaimal explained, “Art can improve the experience of healthcare in a range of ways, including the receptive aesthetics of physical spaces, sensory experiences (visual, aural, tactile and olfactory) as well as expressive engagement facilitated by teaching artists, artists in residence and creative arts therapists…Defining the professional roles and boundaries in healthcare spaces for artists, arts and health practitioners and arts therapists is necessary and will help to establish an overall framework for applied interventions.” Through curriculum development, training and certification, NOAH aims to professionalize the field of arts and medicine and provide clear scope of practice for arts intervention that maximizes value to the patient.
“Defining the professional roles and boundaries in healthcare spaces for artists, arts and health practitioners and arts therapists is necessary and will help to establish an overall framework for applied interventions.”
– Dr. Girija Kaimal, art therapy researcher, Drexel University
Establishing Research Methodologies for Arts in Health
NOAH panelists acknowledged that expanding arts interventions beyond feel-good boutique services would require solid research methodologies and instruments to measure the impact of the arts on health. While the arts complicate the objectivity required to create testable hypotheses, they allow for a natural use of mixed methods like qualitative, quantitative and arts-based research, providing a wide range of data necessary to address clinical populations. Jill Sonke, Director of University of Florida Center for the Arts in Medicine, shared an example of a three-phase study on the use of live patient-requested music in the emergency room. Combining quantitative health and cost data from a double blind randomized control trial and qualitative data from patient and staff reports, the study yielded generalizable results and protocols that can be replicated throughout hospital systems.
This type of research is crucial to the collective advancement of arts in healthcare. Susan Magsamen, Executive Director of the International Arts + Mind Lab (IAM Lab) at Johns Hopkins University, shared her thoughts on where the research is headed. “NOAH is a force to bring together professionals in the arts and healing to learn about the impressive programs targeted at addressing human needs through the arts. I can see the next wave is going to be integrating neuroaesthetics research—how the brain changes on the arts—to expand the effectiveness of programs. At the IAM Lab, we have launched a translational framework to marry neuroaesthetic research and the arts with the goal of using rigorous scientific methods to accelerate healing through the arts.”
“For a while it’s been hard to articulate the benefits [of the arts in health] in a traditional, scientific way, but with the advance of some modern assessment tools…we can really track biomarkers and the differences made in anxiety, resiliency, pain and ultimately the improvement in outcomes.”
– Todd Frazier, NOAH President
In an interview with Hearts Need Art, Frazier echoed Magsamen’s view of where the field goes from here, calling out technological advances as a major accelerator for arts in health research. “For a while it’s been hard to articulate the benefits [of the arts in health] in a traditional, scientific way, but with the advance of some modern assessment tools…we can really track biomarkers and the differences made in anxiety, resiliency, pain and ultimately the improvement in outcomes.” Through interdisciplinary and translational collaborations, greater inclusion of arts in healthcare is well within our reach.
More Resources from NOAH:
- 2018 Presentations
- Professional Standards and Code of Ethics for Arts in Health Professionals (2018)
- Addressing the Future of Arts in Health in America (2018)
- Arts, Health, and Well-being in America (2017)
Art Events Medicine
Written and reported by IAM Lab Contributor Juliet King ATR-BC, LPC, LMHC. Juliet King is currently an Associate Professor of Art Therapy at The George Washington University in Washington, DC and Adjunct Associate Professor and Research Scientist at the IU School of Medicine Department of Neurology in Indianapolis, IN.