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On March 4 Mass Cultural Council officially launched the CultureRx Initiative with a well-attended public briefing for legislators, staff, and cultural partners at the Massachusetts State House. Jointly hosted by Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development Committee Chairs Senator Ed Kennedy (D- Lowell) and Rep. Paul McMurtry (D- Dedham) and Senate Public Health Committee Chair Senator Jo Comerford, the event was a chance to fully outline our vision for using the protective factors of cultural engagement to improve the health and well-being of Massachusetts residents and communities.
The speaking program included Council Vice Chair Marc Carroll, Executive Director Anita Walker, our legislative sponsors, and Louis Gutierrez, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Health Connector, our partner in the ConnectorCare Card to Culture program. The event also featured a compelling panel discussion, moderated by Walker, featuring our CultureRx Initiative partners from the medical and cultural sectors, including:
Mass Cultural Council understands that arts and culture are as important to personal well-being as nutritious food, exercise, adequate sleep, and medical care. We believe everyone should have access to the things that contribute to a healthy life. With CultureRx, Mass Cultural Council is seeking to improve health and well-being, lower health care costs, and strengthen the cultural sector. We expect our approach will engage more people in the protective factors of cultural engagement that prevent serious medical conditions.
The CultureRx Initiative is based on scientific research and best practices already employed in other countries. In 2019 the World Health Organization released a report finding that arts and cultural participation are both effective and cost-effective. And in the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Canada the practice of social prescription is endorsed by government and being used by professional care providers to promote health and wellness. This year, as we continue to rollout CultureRx, Mass Cultural Council hopes to position the Commonwealth as a national leader in social prescription.
There are two major aspects of the CultureRx Initiative: access to arts and culture and social prescription. We are promoting both in the following ways:
Social prescription will allow Mass Cultural Council to promote cultural engagements to residents who typically do not seek out such activities, while developing a new funding stream for our cultural non-profits. Through CultureRx we are implementing a plan to promote health and well-being for individuals, communities, and our cultural non-profits.
This is exciting stuff and our message was enthusiastically received at our State House briefing. Here are a few key take-away moments from the event:
We hope you will join in our excitement about CultureRx. A Call for Interest is available now for the Social Prescription pilot – we are requesting Expressions of Interest from cultural organizations with established partnerships with professional care providers to participate in our year-long pilot. Responses are due May 31, 2020.