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Redefining the value of a culturally engaged life.
We see culture as a necessary ingredient for public health, one that is often neglected or underappreciated. The CultureRx Initiative aims to change that.
We envision a Commonwealth where culture is understood as an essential investment in health, both for individuals and for the community as a whole.
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. We engage in this mission as thought leaders, conveners, and facilitators, drawing on the strengths and values of the people, communities, and institutions we represent.
Massachusetts has one of the most renowned and expensive health care systems in the world. Even here, however, we see significant gaps in the way we provide care. There are vulnerable populations – including low-income adults and children, the elderly, veterans, and recent immigrants – who have health outcomes well below our state standards. There are many health conditions that we have not been able to address adequately or equitably: stress and trauma, chronic illnesses, and substance use disorder, among others. And we know that specific social determinants have an outsized impact on these and many other health factors, leading to diminished quality of life, shortened lifespan, and overall lack of well-being. Clearly, our investment in conventional health care has not been up to the task of providing for everyone’s needs in the Commonwealth.
These gaps in care call for an investment in community-based, public health solutions that focus upstream on social determinants. The good news is that culture – and, specifically, the kind of cultural experiences that Mass Cultural Council already supports – can be a unique and effective social prescription for health. Research shows that access to culture can engage vulnerable populations; it can encourage physical activity, reduce stress and isolation, and help with the substance recovery process; and it can be a powerful factor in addressing social determinants such as poverty, racism, and environmental degradation – all at a much lower cost than conventional health care practices. We have an opportunity to redefine the value of a culturally engaged life by putting health front and center.
How do we do this? By committing ourselves to four specific tasks:
To bring about a true change of perspective, however, we will need to engage every level of the cultural and health care sectors, from individual practitioners to major institutions. We all have something to contribute, regardless of our scale, scope, and resources. As the agency responsible for advancing cultural life across the Commonwealth, we can provide leadership, drive collaboration, help define roles, and serve as tireless evangelists for the cause. We believe that culture has the power to save lives and improve our well-being. Together, we can make that power work for everyone.
As part of CultureRx, we are launching the following new programs: