Arts on Prescription: Expanding access to behavioral healthcare

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At Art Pharmacy, we wake up everyday thinking about how to make it easier for healthcare providers to prescribe “engaging with the arts” in order to improve mental health and reduce the cost of care.  


Art Pharmacy marries two fields of work: it improves upon a Social Prescribing model and advances decades of Arts & Health research on the positive impact of creative engagement on physical and emotional well-being 1,2,3

Social Prescribing is the practice by which care providers ‘prescribe’ non-medical interventions to address health concerns in their patients or clients. It is an evidenced-based approach to improving health and wellbeing across varied fields, with a particular focus on addressing inequities in a person's Social Determinants of Health4. Social Prescribing complements clinical treatments and seeks to address people's social needs through community partnerships that align with patients’ interests and goals. 

Art Pharmacy’s model draws upon this field and integrates more directly into patient care, tracking patient outcomes and providing a closed-loop referral system for healthcare providers concerned about a patient’s continuum of care. We have built upon what is working in existing models in Europe5 and the first pilots in the context of the United States health system6.

Here at Art Pharmacy, we have a team of Care Navigators (similar to Link Workers in the UK model of social prescribing) who help patients to select arts & culture engagements. Care Navigators ensure that the options offered to patients are relevant and appropriate for their health goals and interests in art, keeping in mind other access needs or contra-indicators for certain activities. 


Art Pharmacy is a remote service that connects patients to existing arts & cultural engagements with protective and therapeutic benefits to their physical and mental health. Patients won’t walk into a building with an Art Pharmacy sign to pick up their bag of painting supplies or to hear a night of poetry. Instead, hundreds of Arts & Culture Partner Organizations that are already offering creative engagements are opening their doors. Those engagements are tailored to the patient’s specific needs, akin to precision medicine. Art Pharmacy uses a smart-matching technology in order to provide the highest efficacy offerings, which include workshops, performances, museum and gallery visits, artist talks, and cultural events, in all types of arts disciplines. 


We find ourselves in a unique moment of time. There is a recognized need for solutions to increase connection and promote mental health, as the Surgeon General calls social isolation an ongoing epidemic7. The behavioral health crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with a shortage of behavioral health workforce, leaves a gap creating long wait times for care and burnout amongst care providers. AND at the same time, we have science confirming what we feel innately - that music and dance and art and history enrich our lives whether we are doing it ourselves or witnessing it as a viewer. As brilliantly researched in the field of neuroaesthetics, and outlined in Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross’s new book Your Brain on Art, the evidence points to the fact that ‘we are wired for art.'8 Building out a platform to advance arts-on-prescription  allows us to tap into the field of Arts and Culture, along with the creative, empathetic, multi-talented people comprising it. Art Pharmacy is a natural step to increasing access to behavioral healthcare.

  1. Sonke J. & Golden T. (2020). Arts and Culture in Public Health: An Evidence-Based Framework.  University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine. 
  2. Fancourt D, & Finn S. (2019) What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well being? A scoping review. Health Evidence Network synthesis report, No. 67 Copenhagen: WHO Regional  Office for Europe.
  3. Davies et al. (2016) The Art of being mentally healthy: A study to quantify the relationship between  recreational arts engagement and mental well-being in the general population. BMC Public Health 16:15. 
  4. Chatterjee H, Camic P, Lockyer B, & Thomson L. (2018) Non-clinical community interventions: a  systematised review of social prescribing schemes. Arts & Health. 10:2, 97-123, DOI:  10.1080/17533015.2017.1334002. 
  5. Golden, T.L., Lokuta, A.M., Mohanty, A., Tiedemann, A., Ng, T.W.C., Kuge, M.N., Mendu, M., Morgan,  N., Brinza, T., Monterrey, R. (2022). Mass Cultural Council’s “CultureRx”: Evaluation of a Social  Prescription Pilot. Mass Cultural Council.
  6. Husk K, Blockley K, Lovell R, et al. (2020) What approaches to social prescribing work, for whom, and in  what circumstances? A realist review. Health Soc Care Community.28(2):309-324. 
  8.  NeuroArts Blueprint: Advancing the Science of Arts, Health, and Wellbeing,, Dec 2019.

Getting Started

Connect with an Art Pharmacy team member to enroll as a Prescribing Partner, provide access to your health plans’ members, or find a participating provider in your region.

Connecting with an Art Pharmacy team member to enrol as a Prescribing Partner
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