Congratulations to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Rutgers University for the ambitious and comprehensive plan to Build a Culture of Health in New Jersey. Collaborative, inclusive, and thoughtful, the plan clearly outlines priorities and policies to improve health, equity and well-being for all New Jersey residents, and will no doubt have a positive impact on health-related decisions for years to come. But regrettably, there is no mention of the powerful and proven role of art and culture to treat and promote health and well-being of the whole person, as well as bolster healthy environments and quality caregiving of health workers.
Reducing social isolation and nurturing social and mental well-being are vital to a culture of health. In New Jersey, there are numerous examples of how art and culture are being used to enhance and humanize the healthcare environment.
The Princeton HealthCare System’s award-winning Art for Healing initiative that involves evidence-based design in selecting health-inducing art throughout the hospital including the Punia Family Healing Garden, the hospital restaurant, the Acute Care for the Elderly Unit, and the Regan Family Center for Pediatric Care.
Matheny’s Arts Access program is renowned for its work integrating the arts into therapies and providing creative expression opportunities for persons with severe disabilities. New Jersey Ballet’s Dancing for Parkinson’s Program held at the Robert Wood Johnson Fitness & Wellness Center in New Brunswick is provided in partnership with the American Parkinson’s Disease Association New Jersey Chapter. It is designed to encourage coordination, musicality, spatial awareness, creativity, and technique.
The collaboration between the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the New Jersey Historical Commission with the New Jersey Department of Human Services and the New Jersey Department of Health to assure that users of the Families First Discovery Pass program (SNAP and WIC assistance) have access to free or significantly reduced admission at cultural events throughout the state.
The New Jersey Council on the Humanities has a program called Humanities at the Heart of Health Care®, a national award-winning reading and discussion program. It links literature to medicine by helping healthcare professionals across the country improve their communication and interpersonal skills while increasing their cultural awareness, empathy for patients, and job satisfaction. Ten New Jersey hospitals and healthcare facilities currently participate in the program.
We strongly urge the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Rutgers, and every healthcare facility in the state to include arts and culture as vital elements in their respective strategies to improve health, equity, and well-being for all New Jersey residents.