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Center for Arts in Medicine

Creating Healthy Communities: Arts + Public Health in America

Evidence-Based Framework

Arts and Culture in Public Health: An Evidence-Based Framework

An increasing focus on health equity in public health highlights the need for approaches and interventions that not only support individuals' health but that also address upstream drivers of health outcomes: structures, systems, environments, policies. Such interventions require innovative, collaborative efforts that (a) are responsive to culture, lived experience, and community assets; and (b) support health and well-being at multiple levels of the social ecological model.

As a sector, arts and culture offers rich ground for precisely such collaboration and innovation.

The arts have been shown to influence six broad areas of individual- and population-level health. This framework highlights each of these areas, and identifies outcomes that can be enhanced through arts and cultural approaches, and the mechanisms that mediate or moderate these outcomes.


Grounded in the Social Ecological model, this framework builds on the Creating Healthy Communities through Cross-Sector Collaboration white paper—which is informed by 250 thought leaders in the public health, arts and culture, and community development sectors. It draws on the social ecological model, the Overarching Goals of Healthy People 2030, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health Action Framework to illuminate evidence-based links between arts exposure and participation and multiple health outcomes.

Healthy People 2030 Overarching Goals 
  • Attain healthy, thriving lives and well-being, free of preventable disease, disability, injury and premature death. 
  • Eliminate health disparities, achieve health equity, and attain health literacy to improve the health and well-being of all. 
  • Create social, physical, and economic environments that promote attaining full potential for health and well-being for all. 
  • Promote healthy development, healthy behaviors and well-being across all life stages. 
  • Engage leadership, key constituents, and the public across multiple sectors to take action and design policies that improve the health and well-being of all. 

The Framework informs these general recommendations for action:

  • Co-locate health and social services with arts and cultural activity.  
  • Partner with arts organizations and artists on design and implementation of interventions.  
  • Hire local artists to work on research teams, from design to dissemination.  
  • Look to existing local art and cultural artifacts for answers to research questions.  
  • Co-develop priority and core outcomes for cross-sector work.  
  • Coordinate joint convenings at the local, state, and national levels.  
  • Advocate for inclusion of arts and culture in Healthy People 2040.  

Suggested citation: Sonke, J. & Golden, T. (2020). Arts and Culture in Public Health: An Evidence-Based Framework. University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine. 

Copyright © April 2020. University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine. Permission is granted for reproduction of this file, with attribution to University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine.

Design by Holly Franklin, University of Florida College of the Arts

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