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Prescribed Music? British Health Secretary Supports Arts On Doctors' Orders
The power of music can not only change moods, it can change lives — literally improving our health. And in the U.K., music and other arts are on the precipice of being prescribed by doctors as treatment for a variety of medical conditions.
"It's about moving from patient-centered care to person-centered care," said Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock. He is the British Member of Parliament responsible for its National Health Service and a champion of the new treatment concept of "social prescribing."
Hancock also represents the growing recognition that arts and culture have the potential to improve wellbeing and medical treatment. In a Nov. 6 speech at Britain's King's Fund think-tank, he also described plans in the works to create a National Academy for Social Prescribing.
"We've been fostering a culture that's popping pills and Prozac, when what we should be doing is more prevention and perspiration," said Hancock. "Social prescribing can help us combat over-medicalizing people."
Coming from a software background, Hancock was responding to data summarized at Smithsonian Magazine which shows prescribing activities such as dancing, singing and music can improve health outcomes while reducing medical costs when used in conjunction with a prescribing doctor's supervision and guidance.
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) November 6, 2018
The King's Fund health think-tank has previously advocated for social prescribing, and as evidence mounts and pilot programs succeed, it is hard to resist the economic sense behind prescribing enriching cultural activities on doctor's orders. Some critics are sensitive to cutbacks in overall funding and are particularly concerned that providers of appropriate services for dance, singing, music and other guidance are less likely to serve the underprivileged, or not be readily available in many low-income areas.
Many musicians and supporters of MusiCares have also been involved in how music helps recovery, notably from substance-abuse. While exactly how music for healing will be paid for is still to be determined, it should not seem like fantasy to both cut medical costs and help people get well by ensuring they are involved in activities that support healthier lifestyles. To see these approaches succeed on a larger scale — with a national academy of its own — should not remain a dream if the financial figures make sense.
For many medical sufferers, singing, music, dancing, and most of all expression can make a world of difference in staying fit, long-term. Social prescribing seems like a trend and an approach that is only beginning to prove itself for number-crunchers needing to ensure this reality has a positive impact on their ledgers.