Over the past several decades, evidence has mounted to demonstrate that the arts have positive and measurable impacts on individual and community health. The field of arts in health has emerged from a rapidly growing number of arts programs in healthcare settings.

Concurrently, creative placemaking initiatives across the United States have demonstrated that the arts are a powerful means for strengthening the social and physical environments in communities. The arts are widely utilized as a means for health education and wellness promotion in communities, but their applications are inconsistently recognized in the public health sector. The theoretical and practical structures that informs the use of the arts in community health settings are not well defined, so the arts remain a readily available, yet highly underutilized resource in public health.

Recognizing that a tipping point is near, ArtPlace America partnered with the University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine in 2018 to lead a national research effort that deepens and formalizes the intersection of the arts and public health. (View the original press release here.) “Creating Healthy Communities: Arts + Public Health in America” is a two-year national initiative designed to accelerate the collaboration of arts and public health practitioners seeking to build healthy communities in alignment with national public health goals.

Lead by a team of Center for Arts in Medicine research scholars, the project has brought together an array of existing initiatives and thought leaders in order to establish clear theoretical constructs, standardized research protocols with the potential for meaningful statistical power, and a framework for evidence-based practices and programs that utilize a comprehensive interdisciplinary knowledge base.

Field Scan

The Creating Healthy Communities through Cross-sector Collaboration white paper presents the views of more than 250 thought leaders from the public health, arts and culture, and community development sectors who were convened in working groups in 2018 and 2019. Their voices are joined by over 500 participants in a national field survey and focus groups, and are supported by findings of a scoping review of arts + public health literature.

With the public health sector as a primary intended audience, the Creating Healthy Communities through Cross-sector Collaboration white paper frames the value of the arts and culture for advancing health and well-being in communities. It offers examples and recommendations for expanding cross-sector collaboration and innovation, with the following goals:

  • Advance collaboration among those working at the intersections of art and culture, public health, and community development
  • Stimulate upstream interventions—aimed at systems, cultures, and policies—that reduce barriers to health and well-being
  • Assert the value of arts and culture for increasing health, wellbeing, and equity in communities
  • Foster transformative social change that advances health and wellbeing

This paper is also intended to offer value and guidance to community development, arts and culture, and other allied health sectors by providing examples of impactful cross-sector collaborations that engage arts and culture to address five critical public health issues: collective trauma, racism, social isolation and exclusion, mental health, and chronic disease. These concrete examples inform the paper's recommendations and call to action, which assert the value of the arts and culture for community health transformation, and for advancing the culture of health being envisioned today.

Download Creating Healthy Communities through Cross-sector Collaboration here.

Working Group

The Creating Healthy Communities initiative has engaged over 250 individuals and several institutional partners to date in a series of working groups and conferences. ArtPlace specifically supported convenings in Cincinnati, OH (June 2018), Austin, TX (October 2018), Athens, GA (November 2018), Washington, DC (January 2019), Lexington, KY (September 2019), and Orlando, FL (September 2019).  Agendas, participants, and proceedings for each of these meetings – and several more that University of Florida has led – can be found in the Collaboration and Events section of the Creating Healthy Communities website.

Additionally, the white paper was drafted by a group of twelve individuals brought together in Gainesville, FL (March 2019) with support from ArtPlace America and the Pabst Steinmetz Foundation. Those authors are:

Jill Sonke, University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine
Tasha Golden, University of Louisville
Samantha Francois, Tulane University School of Social Work
Jamie Hand, ArtPlace America
Anita Chandra, RAND Corporation
Lydia Clemmons, Clemmons Family Farm
David Fakunle, DiscoverME/RecoverME, Morgan State University
Maria Rosario Jackson, Arizona State University
Susan Magsamen, Johns Hopkins University International Arts + Mind Lab
Victor Rubin, PolicyLink
Kelley Sams, University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine
Stacey Springs, Harvard University
With: Margery Pabst Steinmetz, Pabst Steinmetz Foundation


Insights and feedback from group of external reviewers were also critical to the development of the white paper:

Elaine Auld, Society of Public Health Education
Jay Baruch, MD, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
Jennifer Beard, Boston University School of Public Health
Tom Borrup, Creative Community Builders, University of Minnesota
Nupur Chaudhury, New York State Health Foundation
Deborah Cullinan, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Sandro Galea, Boston University School of Public Health
Ping Ho, UCLArts and Healing
Kendra Jones, Richmond Memorial Health Foundation
Liz Lerman, Arizona State University Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts
Javier Nieto, MD, Oregon State University
Paul Pietsch, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
Lourdes J. Rodriguez, University of Texas at Austin Department of Population Health
Julia Ryan, Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Dawood H. Sultan, Mercer University Center for Urban Research, Development, Sustainability, and Evaluation
Eddie Torres, Grantmakers in the Arts
Katie Wehr, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Elizabeth Weist, Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health
Frank Woodruff, National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations
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Additional Resources

The Center for Arts in Medicine will continue to publish its findings for both practitioner and policy-focused audiences, and is in the process of creating an open-access Research Database and Repository of arts in public health resources – both of which are critical resources for the field to develop effective interdisciplinary partnerships, implement effective evidence- based practices, and reliably measure outcomes.

For more information or to get involved, visit the Center for Arts in Medicine’s Creating Healthy Communities website.

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