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Arts and health initiatives more important than ever during Coronavirus pandemic

The Welsh NHS Confederation and the Arts Council of Wales are highlighting the health benefits creativity can have on the wellbeing of the population during the Coronavirus pandemic.

As Mental Health Awareness Week and Creative Wellbeing Week begin today, it is more important than ever we all take steps to look after ourselves and the most vulnerable in our communities.

According to the 2016-17 National Survey for Wales, 440,000 people in Wales reported feeling lonely or isolated. This number is now likely to be much higher during the lockdown period.

The effects of loneliness and isolation can be as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and puts people at a 50% increased risk of an early death compared to those with good social connections.

Artists and the NHS, including Local Health Boards, across Wales are working to continue to deliver services which benefit people in Wales using innovative new technologies and enhance people’s experience during this unprecedented time.

Jayne Bryant, Member of the Senedd (Newport West), and Chair of the Senedd’s Cross Party Group on Arts and Health said:

“It is only right and necessary that restrictions have had to be put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. However it does not come without its challenges.  We are estranged from our extended family and friends, out of our normal routines, and not able to be part of events or activities within our communities. We are still adjusting to the changes we are all faced with on a daily basis – not to mention the courage shown by our NHS, and our essential workers throughout all of this.

“As Chair of the Cross Party Group on Arts & Health I often hear the benefits resulting from arts projects and services across Wales and directly in my own constituency of Newport West. Two of the repeated outcomes of these efforts are often effective in reducing isolation and loneliness and increasing the quality of life for a number of people.

“In these challenging times many of us have turned to the arts for support. Whether it’s a painted rainbow in your window, or a virtual singalong you joined – the arts community has adapted to the current challenges we face, and the evidence shows arts and health to be as intertwined and important as ever.”

Commenting today, Arts Council of Wales Chair, Phil George, said:

“The impact of arts experiences on physical and mental health is now widely understood across the world. Wales is at the cutting edge of UK developments in delivering Arts for Health opportunities across the varied communities of the nation – through the extraordinary practice of our artists and through the joint funding of Arts for Health coordinators by our Health Boards and the Arts Council of Wales.

“But now this reservoir of talent, expertise and cooperation is being called on with a new sense of urgency in this time of pandemic. The responses of artists and arts organisations, working closely with health professionals, have been innovative and inspiring – and they are driven by a profound concern for equality of opportunity and inclusion. They show yet again the central importance of the arts for our health and wellbeing in Wales”.

Nesta Lloyd-Jones, Assistant Director of the Welsh NHS Confederation said:

“While the NHS in Wales is focussed on dealing with the impacts of Coronavirus on our physical health, we are also working tirelessly to deliver vital services which can have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.

“Arts and health initiatives are being delivered in innovative new ways to comply with social distancing rules, while helping to maintain our wellbeing throughout what is a difficult time for us all, but especially for people who are vulnerable.

“The response from the NHS and the arts community has been phenomenal as we work on finding new ways to keep our support services running by utilising new technology, but also being aware of those who do not have access to digital technology. The evidence shows arts and health initiatives having a profoundly positive impact on the health and wellbeing of our population, and keeping those projects going at a difficult time will be crucial in mitigating the indirect impacts of Coronavirus and the lockdown.”