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"'CultureRx': Evaluation of a Social Prescription Pilot" report explores intersections of arts, culture, and health.
“That was like the best doctor visit I’ve ever had in 72 years. It was so fun, and I get theater tickets!”
– A patient who received a social prescription
“It feels like prescribing beauty in your life.”
– A physician who offers social prescription
These quotes hint at the many positive experiences that patients, providers, and cultural organizations identified through their experience in Mass Cultural Council’s Social Prescription Pilot Program, part of the Agency’s CultureRx Initiative. Increased feelings of self-worth and self-efficacy were also noted when “social prescriptions” for arts and cultural experiences were filled in safe environments, as documented in a new study by Tasha Golden, PhD, Director of Research of the International Arts + Mind Lab at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Social prescription, including “Arts on Prescription,” has been utilized as a strategy for health for the past two decades in the United Kingdom, Canada, and other EU countries. Inspired by this work, from FY20-22, Mass Cultural Council has endeavored to build a public infrastructure that supports the role of cultural experiences as a protective factor in the health and well-being of all people in the Commonwealth.
The Social Prescription Pilot Program has enabled medical professionals to write prescriptions for cultural experiences in the arts, sciences, and humanities as possible ways to better address social determinants of health, decrease isolation, and increase connections within the community. In FY22, the statewide Pilot Program expanded with a cohort of 12 organizations dedicating themselves to advancing the role of culture as a protective factor. Dr. Tasha Golden and the four-member task force were supported to evaluate the impact of the program. Although the COVID-19 pandemic surge created many barriers to participation and to the implementation of their data collection, eight of 12 organizations were able to submit data from their spring 2022 programming.
Mass Cultural Council’s “CultureRx”: Evaluation of a Social Prescription Pilot is an exciting new report that explores intersections of arts, culture, and health. It provides an overall description of social prescribing, the origins and practice in the UK, and how we have adapted community care models and innovated to provide a pilot of social prescribing as part of the CultureRx Initiative here in Massachusetts. By taking a deeper look with pilot participants, cultural organizations, and their healthcare partners, a robust team evaluated the work of the Social Prescription Pilot Program from a multitude of perspectives through surveys, focus groups, and interviews. The report draws upon this data to provide a solid understanding of successes, barriers, and opportunities. With this foundation, the report also offers recommendations from cultural organizations and healthcare providers. In addition, the lead evaluator provides 13 recommendations not only for the next phase of the Agency’s programs, but for additional efforts or potential pilots across the nation that may wish to implement and sustain social prescription programs.
Recommendations for the next phase of the Social Prescription Pilot Program include building stronger bridges between providers and organizations (e.g. through a direct, accessible, multi-directional referral process), and further incorporating the voice of communities in the design/evaluation of each organization’s programming.
In FY23, Mass Cultural Council aims to expand provider partnerships by increasing awareness of arts and culture as important, positive additions to their toolkits. A key finding in the report was that providers themselves appear to benefit from being able to offer positive experiences to their patients; in future iterations, we hope to learn more about this effect and its implications. In the coming fiscal year, we hope to increase access to arts and culture resources; prioritize the addressing of structural barriers to equity, access, and inclusion; and offer further trainings for our cohort organizations. As we work to further understand impacts and best practices of social prescription, we plan to design a field guide to inspire future pilots in the U.S. and will seek to identify a partner to expand this important initiative in Massachusetts.