Most of us can agree that our environments can help or hurt our health. When we think about physical environments in this context, we may think of aspects such as air quality, or if a particular location is safe – this might be in relation to quality of construction of the building, or the presence of pesticides on a lawn.
The HealthyPeople 2020 report issued by Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) addressed poor health outcomes of individuals from interaction with their social and physical environment; and specifically referred to aesthetic items, such as good lighting, trees, or benches (ODPHP, n.d.), as examples of elements in such an environment.
As our society is evolving and many of the "basic" environmental concerns are being addressed, our time and resources can continue to be allocated towards understanding the impact and importance of other environmental elements that were previously underestimated, or brushed off as superficial.
Artists in residence of a healthcare setting -- say, a hospital -- desire to use their creative abilities for improving the quality of lives of those around them. While patients and their families are generally the focus, many healthcare organizations also recognize the importance of managing the stress levels of staff, adding to their job performance and satisfaction.
Creative practices from the visual arts to expressive movement and dance can be utilized in a variety of environments for purposes of decreasing participants' stress and increasing their well-being.
Art and music have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression and speed recovery (Sadler, Berry, Guenther, Hamilton, Hessler, Merritt, & Parker, 2011) -- some surgeons are known to play music in the operating room to help reduce tension and benefit the team.
Whether it's nature scenes on the ceilings over patients' beds, chalkboard painted walls so anyone can create a mural or play tic-tac-toe in the emergency room, or Friday evening dancing and drumming circles in assisted living facilities -- our evolution as humans includes advancements in science for greater understanding of what true health encompasses -- and sometimes this means reaching to our past to bring forward elements of holistic care that are as relevant to our well-being now as they were a millennia ago.
Artists in Medicine (AIM) practitioners study history, grow in cultural understanding of diverse traditions, and incorporate any applicable aspect of a wide variety of the arts to engage patients in ways that can ultimately contribute to a more positive experience in their circumstances -- the by-product of which can also potentially aid towards the fulfillment of the healthcare provider's mission: AIMing to improve the health of their patients.