Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Arts on Prescription in Scandinavia: A Review of Current Practice and Future Possibilities

Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Arts on Prescription in Scandinavia: A Review of Current Practice and Future Possibilities

Article excerpt

State of Play: Arts and Health in Scandinavia

There is considerable political and academic interest in culture and health in the Scandinavian countries, and there is some evidence that this is being translated into practice. In the first published survey of the culture and health field in the Nordic countries, the relationship between culture and health is being identified as an important factor in a sustainable Nordic welfare model.[1] The survey emphasises the enormous potential that arts can have in the promotion of health and wellbeing. The aim of this article is to provide an overview of how arts and culture are used and is described in the Scandinavian countries and the United Kingdom. In this article, we first provide a brief overview of the arts and health field in Scandinavia, and then we offer an overview of Arts on Prescription activities in the Scandinavian countries before we go on to consider the research conducted among Arts on Prescription programmes in the United Kingdom. Such evidence may help to inform developments of Arts on Prescription in the Scandinavian countries.


Because there is so little peer-reviewed studies published with regard to Arts on Prescription in Scandinavia, we adopted a pragmatic approach to the literature search, including peer-reviewed and grey literature in English and the respective languages of Scandinavia for the period 1997 to May 2016. The approach we used was a rapid review.[2] Mainly because of the lack of published research around the specific topic in Scandinavia, we did not think that a thorough systematic review was called for. However, the rapid review process sought to identify existing key literature related to the topic of Arts on Prescription in Scandinavia and in the United Kingdom. Lal and Aadair[3] argue that rapid reviews may not be as comprehensive as systematic reviews, but they can still produce valid conclusions and provide an analytic synthesis on a given topic. We also have reasons to believe that a number of publications are reports, in Scandinavian languages. These are available on the Internet, rather than in academic databases.

The keywords we used were as follows: arts, creativity, prescription, participatory or participation and cultural activities. These were applied to databases, including ASSIA, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Web of Science, Embase, Cochrane Library, Google Scholar and Medline. Equivalent searches were used in each of the databases and Internet search engines for the grey literature. Additionally, the reference lists of retrieved articles were hand-searched to identify further relevant literature. Leading researchers in the field of Arts on Prescription were also contacted individually with a request to provide additional relevant research papers. These researchers were based within the United Kingdom and Scandinavia. We did not apply a strict inclusion criterion because of the paucity of literature on the subject; we included all articles that we considered to make a contribution to the topic. The results can be found in Table 1 which identifies the originating country of the articles, together with the methods and key findings and separated into two categories with literature that is specifically about Arts on Prescription and another category that includes general literature about the arts and health field. We have only included what we perceive as the most relevant literature in the and acknowledge the existence of other literature. The remaining references that are used in the article can be found in the reference section.


In Sweden, arts and health is supported at policy level and, from 2000 cultural activity, has officially been acknowledged as an important vehicle for public health work.[4],[5] In 2007, the Swedish Parliament initiated the Culture and Health Association, which has served as a political pressure group for culture and health. Many large-scale culture and health initiatives have been initiated at both regional and national levels. …

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