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Poetry and Health | 12-May-08

Poetry and Health
Poems in the Waiting Room would like to hear about any examples of the impact of poetry in the health services. PitWR is researching issues regarding poetry and health. A dossier of projects or single examples is essential to ensure that poetry is given a full and central place in the broad field of arts in health, which is currently dominated by the visual, aural and kinetic arts. Poetry is the most effective element of arts in health, and can prove a potent tonic and adjuvant to patient care. Poetry immediately engages the heart and mind with potential beneficial physical impact, especially in reduction of patient's stress.

The project is currently urgent. The 2006 NHS Review of Arts and Health urged the Government to make a clear statement that the arts should be recognised as integral to health, healthcare provision and healthcare environments; to create an environment in which it is legitimate and considered to be good practice to invest in arts and health. The response to date from the Government has been virtually invisible.

The former Minster for the Arts, Lord Howarth asked Her Majesty's Government how they intend to develop their policies to link the arts with healthcare in a House of Lords debate last March. Introducing the debate, he said: "There is much to celebrate in the contribution of the arts to healthcare across the country. Bibliotherapy groups on Merseyside are enabling literature to alleviate pain and mental distress for people with Alzheimer's, motor neurone disease and mental health problems. Poems in the Waiting Room is the most widely read poetry publication in the United Kingdom..."

Concluding he added "We also need to know whether the DCMS and Arts Council England are still committed to the strategy set out last year in The Arts, Health and Well-being, which was billed as the first formal national strategy for arts and health. ACE declared two overarching aims: "to integrate the arts into mainstream health strategy", and, "to increase ... resources for arts and health initiatives".

With possible renewed offiicial interest in arts in health, and the promotion of poetry as a core element of arts in health, then evidence is necessary to demonstrate poetry's popularity with patients and its contribution to patient care.
Contact Michael Lee Editor Poems the Waiting Room PO Box 488 Richmond TW9 4DE
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