Making A Difference

The Long Term (long read)

Arts & Health Gippsland’s future goal is to augment the healthcare environment with the Arts.

This goal dreams of three big changes for local healthcare environments: Using artwork to recreate the visual space around where care for health is the priority; providing group sessions of art-making facilitation to co-exist alongside traditional rehabilitation, therapy, or treatment methods; and facilitating artist-in-residence programs to increase the sense of community within various healthcare settings. 

Barriers to embedding the arts in health:

Health Regulations

Achieving this goal would mean surmounting significant barriers. Firstly, wholistic healthcare must also protect privacy and integrity of care, so that each client can rely on their health needs being met with evidence-based methods, while having confidence that their information is protected. As such, current Australian regulations do not allow for the arts within the medical model. Therefore, implementing the arts to enhance health must firstly be within a research environment where the moral and ethical risks have been duly considered, or be offered outside the health system in the private sphere.

Art for the Elite?

Secondly, there is a wide perception that “Art” is an elite sphere of individuals with little relevance for those deeply concerned for their bodily health. This perception comes from the commercialised ‘art world’, where artworks are bought and sold for hugely inflated amounts. However, art in this context is more about the bouquet of flowers brought to bring colour to the bedside of someone with a chronic illness or injury, or the drawing given by a young relative that brings memories of past times of good health and energy. Art in this context is closer to the mind’s feelings of joy when experiencing a certain colour, or fragrance, or sound, or texture. This art enables a strong will and positive outlook, fuelled by colour, love, and joy – the psychosocial aspect of health promotion.

Only what is necessary

Finally, there are the practical barriers to implementing the arts within the healthcare space. With the recent necessary COVID-19 hyper-vigilance, any physical or human inclusion within the spaces where health and disease must coexist brings up questions of necessity. Who and what needs to be present in the space around a person with health needs? Yes, their healthcare practitioners, following evidence-based precautions and protocols. Yes, their loved-ones and families – who also follow protocol so as not to introduce unnecessary risk. But, perhaps also, a bright colourful image on the wall – suitably tested and maintained to ensure no pathogenic load – to distract the mind during pain, to invite a visual conversation, to invite perhaps a non-health conversation between health client and healthcare practitioner, to allow for the sharing of humanity rather than the power-unequal dialogue of ‘invalid’ and doctor. The focus of healthcare is not merely the absence of disease or the healing of bodily injury, but also the state of the mind, as the driver of self actualisation.