Recognizing the powerful contribution of the arts to the promotion of health and well-being, about forty (40) professionals from the arts and the medical profession participated in the 17th Annual Arts In Medicine Summer Intensive (AIMSI) 2018 in Gainesville, University of Florida and this article shares the Perspective of physiologist-turned artist, Timothy Undiandeye.
Four (4) indigenous artists, ‘Kunle Adewale, (Project Lead, AIM Project Africa), Timothy Undiandeye, Coordinator, Cross River), Bisola Alagbede, and Ogochuckwu Anochie, as well as four (4) medical students from University of Lagos (Ogechi Opara, Busayomi Ganiyu, Feyikemi Fasina and Oyinlola Thomas) participated in the programme. It was the first time AIMSI was hosting a contingent from Africa – the outcome of about three (3) years of correspondence and follow up with the Arts in Medicine Project in Nigeria. Arts in Medicine programmes have since been launched in 16 other African countries, under the auspices of Tender Arts Nigeria.
What is Arts in Medicine?
Arts In Medicine is all about using arts to help those whose lives have been interrupted by illness or injury. It is an integrated approach to healthcare through creative engagements with the visual and performing arts (including crafts, dance, film, literature, story-sharing, music and singing, as well as the culinary arts and gardening), for patients, their caregivers and hospital staff.
It explores how arts-based approaches can help people to stay well, recover faster, manage long-term conditions and experience a better quality of life. This complementary approach to healthcare complements traditional medicine by humanizing the healthcare experience. It improves the efficiency of healthcare delivery, saves money and helps hospital staff in their work. Arts In Medicine also impacts the culture of care by providing self-care for health workers and caregivers facing compassion fatigue.
Since 1990, the Arts in Medicine programme at University of Florida has been a pioneer in the research and development of this rapidly-growing discipline. Through arts therapies, arts on prescription, art residencies and participatory arts programmes, the university and Shand’s Centre for Arts in Medicine work together to create the next generation of experts in the field. More than half of the hospitals in the United States now invest in Arts In Medicine Programmes.
It started with insightful lectures, discussions and presentations, punctuated with creative practice (spoken word, art workshops, song-writing sessions, etc). Best practices in infection control, patient confidentiality, and M&E were outlined. There were hospital tours, community health programmes.
In the clinical shadowing experiences with Artists in Residence, what stood out was that patients’ peculiar circumstances and preferences were considered. No prior artistic experience was required. Creative practice involved simple tasks, requiring little or no dexterity, such that patients with movement disorders, such as stroke could easily participate. Engagements like this have been found to improve concentration and memory, increase confidence, morale and sense of self, promote creativity and self-expression, while reducing anxiety and stress. Research points that this is every bit as vital as drugs and chemotherapy.
The Nigerian contingent raised the imperative of partnerships with the university to help integrate Arts In Medicine programs in African healthcare systems. Having gained the knowledge and skills needed to expand the field, the participants are set to develop new and innovative programmes in their own communities.
(An MoU is being developed with UF Center for Arts in Medicine to facilitate exchange programmes and other research opportunities. Thi calls for informed and open-minded willingness to accept the significant role of the arts in addressing a number of the pressing issues faced by our health and social care systems).