WHO report on Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases "Learning from the Arts" - NDPHS

WHO report on Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases “Learning from the Arts”

5 December, 2023

Over the past two decades, there has been a major increase in research about the effects of the arts on health and well-being, alongside developments in practice and policy activities in countries across the WHO European Region. This report summarizes the proceedings of an expert meeting held on 15–16 December 2022 in Budapest, Hungary, on the value of arts interventions for health. The meeting brought together a broad range of stakeholders, including academics in various disciplines, artists, cultural institutions, healthcare practitioners, policy-makers, Member State representatives, and WHO delegates.

Noncommunicable diseases (NCD) are a critical area of public health and an important area in which to explore and further develop arts-based initiatives. Arts and health activities are particularly well suited for NCD prevention and control because they are multimodal, acting at psychological, behavioral, and social levels, all of which are important in the prevention and control of NCDs. Many artistic activities address health topics that are directly relevant to NCD, including mental health, age-related disorders, and chronic illnesses. Such activities are often low-risk, cost-effective, and complement medical treatments.

The NDPHS as a Policy Area Health coordinator in the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region continuously advocates for the Health in All Policies approach which is a holistic view of health integration in different sectors, including the arts. The NDPHS Secretariat is a partner of the Arts on Prescription project, a cross-sectoral initiative highlighting the role of arts engagement in improving peoples’ mental well-being and overall life satisfaction. It is important to keep advancing the understanding among practitioners, policymakers, and the general public that among other sectors, arts and especially targeted arts interventions increase health behavior.

A medicalized view tends to undercut the real power of art interventions, therefore during the WHO meeting in Budapest, Christopher Bailey shared his own story in two powerful performances: Carry that Weight: Obesity and Perception exploring the social history of obesity as well as his own experience living with the condition, and Stage 4:Cancer and Imagination. In Mr. Bailey’s own words, “Health is a complete person, not just absence of illness”.

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading causes of death and disability in the WHO European Region, where they are responsible for 90% of all deaths, representing nearly 9 million people every year, and 85% of situations of disability.

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Text: Zane Vilnite, NDPHS Secretariat

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