Introducing creative health

February, 2023

The first programme in the world of its kind the MASc in Creative Health at University College London (UCL) is leading the way in showing the positive impacts getting creative has on people's health and wellbeing

Helen Chatterjee is a professor of biology at UCL and programme director for the Masters in Creative Health. She is an advisor to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing and one of the founding trustees for the National Centre for Creative Health. Here she talks us through what's involved with the course and important part that students can play…

What is creative health?

Creative health can be defined as creating the conditions and opportunities for arts, creativity and culture to be embedded in public health.

Why was the MASc in Creative Health introduced?

The programme takes its name from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing's 2017 'Creative Health Inquiry Report'. This report contains more than 1,000 references to an array of arts-based projects, programmes, research studies and reports - showcasing the significant contribution that arts and creative engagement makes to health and wellbeing.

The report makes ten recommendations, and the Masters of arts and science (MASc) in Creative Health is a direct response to recommendation eight: 'to create more education and training opportunities dedicated to the contribution of the arts to health and wellbeing'.

What type of students would suit this course?

The course is designed to appeal to students who are interested in creative and community-based approaches to tackling inequalities, with a focus on connecting research, policy and practice. 

Normally we ask for a minimum of an upper second-class UK Bachelor's degree or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard in any arts, humanities, science or medical discipline. This could include:

  • arts
  • humanities and social sciences
  • liberal arts
  • medicine/biomedicine
  • nursing and other allied health professions
  • psychology
  • sciences.

Professional experience in the fields of arts, culture and health, or social prescribing, is desirable, but not essential. If you don't quite match these criteria you may still be accepted on to the course if you can show work experience or a strong academic background.

Could you tell us more about the course links with the community and national partners?

The programme benefits from links to a range of national, regional and local partners, including:

  • Arts Council England
  • Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance
  • National Centre for Creative Health
  • Social Prescribing Network
  • The Lived Experience Network.

Over the past few years we have built up fantastic relationships with a host of community-organisations such as:

  • Arts4Dementia
  • Camden Green Gym
  • city-farms
  • Rosetta Life
  • Wallace Collection.

Our partners contribute to the programme by giving talks about their work, running practice-based workshops and hosting the community-based research projects which form the basis of the dissertation.

What one thing is affecting creative health that students should be aware of?

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted significant inequalities where the poorest members of society, were adversely and disproportionately affected by coronavirus. It has never been timelier to consider how we tackle health inequalities and creative approaches to health provide an innovative solution to help tackle the social determinants of health.

Where should students look to gain experience in creative health?

Working or volunteering in your local community or arts centre, museum, library or local park is a great place to start. Many of these organisations may have a wellbeing programme, but if they don't you could offer to help develop a programme by working with your local GPs, primary care network or social prescribing link worker. The Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance and Social Prescribing Network have regional representatives who are linked in to local organisations so these are great networks to help get you started.

How do you see careers in the area developing over the next 10 years?

Research will be a big growth areas in the coming years - the need to grow the evidence base has never been timelier as we see new initiatives such as social prescribing, open up routes to make arts and creativity more accessible for people experiencing inequalities.

There will also be opportunities within health or social care around community health, social prescribing link workers and within the arts, cultural and creative sectors we are seeing more 'wellbeing' and community posts.

What advice do you have for anyone considering a career in creative health?

I would definitely recommend volunteering and spending your spare time practising 'creative health' - be it through arts, gardening or performance - this will not only help others but also improve your own wellbeing.

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