Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

How the Arts Can Address Mental Health Inequities 


Awareness of local and online art and cultural offerings enables healthcare professionals to provide enriching recommendations to patients. 

Our team’s recent paper, “Arts Engagement as a Health Behavior: An Opportunity to Address Mental Health Inequities,” delves into the benefits associated with collaborations between health and arts sectors. The UnLonely Film Festival is a great example of this form of collaboration. Each year, the UnLonely Film Festival, curated by Project UnLonely, amplifies lived experiences of isolation by broadcasting award-winning short films. Each is created by individuals from groups that are “disproportionately at risk for loneliness and isolation, such as caregivers, older adults, those dealing with substance abuse, those with a major illness, military veterans, college campuses, and minority populations (including LGBTQ and immigrants).” Project UnLonely aims to raise public awareness about the negative mental and physical health outcomes associated with loneliness, empowering both individuals and communities alike to connect with one another through art. 


Here are three things to consider doing:

1. Learn about the positive impacts of arts participation on mental health. 

A great place to start is by reading the World Health Organization’s review on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being. This article does an excellent job of synthesizing the global evidence on the role the arts can play in improving health. From there, explore epidemiological evidence from the EpiArts Lab, a collaboration between the University of Florida’s Center for Arts in Medicine and Dr. Daisy Fancourt at University College London. Further, check out the NeuroArts Blueprint Report, a collaboration between Johns Hopkins’ International Arts in Mind Lab and the Aspen Institute. 


2. Become an advocate for social prescribing.

The practice of prescribing patients with social activities, such as art engagement, has been largely employed in countries like the United Kingdom, while the United States is currently investigating pilot studies. Learn more about current programs in the United States and how you can get involved! 


3. Engage with programs and initiatives that are already doing the work.

Take the time to learn from the amplification of underrepresented voices through programs like the UnLonely Film Festival and Project Music Heals Us and get involved. A great place to see what programs and initiatives are currently underway is the University of Florida’s Center for Arts in Medicine’s Arts + Public Health Repository. By engaging with current initiatives, you may even learn more about concepts which directly apply to your priority populations or contexts. Practices like co-location—having arts and cultural practices in the same place as health offerings—create an accessible and engaging way for people to attend to their health. For instance, consider the work that Pediatrics 2000 is doing by deeply integrating art into their clinical spaces. 








This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.