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LEARN: Review of 'Arts in Health - Designing and Researching Interventions'

Updated: Apr 2

Review written by Laurie Sadowski (Arts in Medicine Coordinator, Canada)


Fancourt, D. (2017). Arts in Health: Designing and researching interventions. Oxford University Press.



The field of arts in health continues to progress, making this book timely and essential for emerging and established artists, researchers, healthcare professionals, and practitioners involved in the field.


The book highlights the rising number of initiatives, research, and scholarship surrounding seven key areas of activity: arts in the healthcare environment; participatory arts programmes for specific patient groups; general arts activities in everyday life; arts in psychotherapy; arts in healthcare technology; arts-based training for staff; and arts in health education.


Author Daisy Fancourt starts book with the context for arts in health interventions, establishing the historical roots and growth in terms of theory and politics. Addressing the evolving definition of “arts in health”, she draws upon multiple models and encourages its evolvement as the field and its practitioners do. With the understanding that arts in health overlaps with other fields– such as medical humanities, other arts, and psychology – Fancourt recommends researchers be open to a reflexive definition.


The next section outlines designing and delivering arts in health interventions, including details on the multiple processes involved – both for artists working in healthcare, or healthcare workers exploring the arts. The approach will likely address questions from those new to or established in all fields and contexts of arts in health, providing a comprehensive overview to the intervention process.


Following this is a step-by-step guide to researching arts in health interventions. With both quantitative and qualitative strategies and study design, as well as the use of a five-point scale to address researchers’ ambitions for their projects, Fancourt simplifies what can be an otherwise arduous process of beginning the research protocol.

The final section of the book includes 13 “fact files”, which explore different healthcare specialities that have completed or are in the process of arts in health projects. In an effort to ‘stimulate ideas’, each project file provides a summary, project ideas, key research findings, and resources available.


A breadth of research and references underpin the book, allowing those in multiple fields – specifically the arts or in healthcare – to find worth in its data and guidance. Fancourt writes the book in an accessible style, easy to reference section-by-section or read cover-to-cover, with an understanding the current needs of this growing discipline.


What are the key topics covered?

Arts in health history; arts in health definition; designing arts in health interventions; ethics; evaluation, case studies; qualitative research; quantitative research; arts in healthcare; public health; participatory arts; research protocols; funding


What art forms are discussed?

Participatory music; community arts; visual art; museums; art galleries; music therapy; dance; art therapy; poetry; play therapy; technology; narrative; drama; group drumming; cultural activities; videos; singing; sculpture; design; animation


What disciplines are involved?

This book combines disciplines in the arts (specifically in the above art forms discussed) and in multiple areas of healthcare: hospitals and long-term care centres; public health; critical care, emergency medicine; dentistry; psychology; geriatric medicine; neurology; obstetrics; oncology; paediatrics; palliative care; public health; psychiatry; rehabilitation medicine; surgery. It also addresses: health education; cultural policy; research (qualitative and quantitative); medical humanities.


Who is it aimed at?

This book is aimed at practitioners (in any field of the arts or health) who (a) want to learn more about the growth of the field; (b) seek to design interventions; (c) plan to complete research (at any level) of these interventions.


Thank you to Laurie for taking the time to write this fantastic book review. If you are interested in reviewing a book for the AHECRN please get in touch with Robyn (Blog editor).

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