Arts in health

Adam Lewis, lecturer in physiotherapy, says why we must find activities that people enjoy

Adam Lewis
Adam Lewis is a lecturer at Brunel University London

Pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) has great evidence for improving a range of health outcomes including exercise capacity and quality of life for people living with chronic respiratory disease. The connection and sense of belonging people get in groups is hugely important for those who are commonly socially isolated, disengaged and lonely. However, many people don’t have access to PR, aren’t referred, or do not complete programmes. 

Just because something works, does not mean people want to do it. We all have autonomy and choice, which should be respected. Therefore, we need to consider how to best support people if they do not want to participate in PR, after they have been fully informed of the potential benefits. However, there are limited other evidence-based group activities for people with chronic respiratory disease.

Arts in health activities, such as singing and dancing, can improve physical, psychological, emotional and social health. I can see that many people don’t want to sing or dance with strangers, but neither do some want to exercise with them.

We must find activities that people enjoy and determine the potential holistic clinical benefits of these activities. 

The NHS Long Term Plan also supports social prescribing, which could enable such arts in health programmes to be offered clinically. We don’t know yet if individuals with different chronic respiratory diseases would participate in such programmes. Furthermore, there is only limited evidence available, in a small range of outcomes, for interventions such as singing for lung health. Only once we have high-quality evidence for arts in health activities in respiratory care can we determine whether these choices are of value, before being offered to patients in an individualised way. 

My aim is to provide this evidence to support people to live well with respiratory disease. 

  • Adam Lewis is a lecturer at Brunel University London, with a background in respiratory care. His research interest is studying ways to live well with chronic respiratory disease

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