Sweden to test ‘culture by prescription’

Sweden to test 'culture by prescription'
Doctors in south-western Sweden will soon be able to prescribe cultural activities such as choir lessons or ceramics classes as part of a taxpayer-funded initiative to help reduce prolonged absences from work due to illness.

On Monday, the Swedish government announced that health authorities in Skåne in southern Sweden will receive 500,000 kronor ($72,600) from the public purse to fund a pilot programme called Kultur på recept (‘Culture by prescription’).

The one-year trial will be carried out at a health clinic in Helsingborg operated by Capio Citykliniken and offer patients access to cultural activities as a complement to their traditional treatment and rehabilitation.

“We know that illnesses affect people in different ways and can lead to absences due to sickness of varying lengths of time,” said social security minister Cristina Husmark Pehrsson in a statement.

“My hope is that culture by prescription can offer new insights into how culture, in a more pronounced way, can be a part of rehabilitation for extended absences due to illness.”

Research has shown a positive relationship between participating in cultural activities and an individual’s health, according to the ministers of culture and health, who jointly presented the programme on Tuesday.

As the government searches for ways to reduce the number of Swedes on long-term sick leave, the idea of exploring how cultural activities may help improve people’s health received a positive reception from government officials.

The culture by prescription trial will target patients suffering from low- and medium-grade depression, stress, anxiety, as well as those who have had back, shoulder or neck pains which have lasted more than three months.

Culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth was optimistic about the possibilities of spreading the positive effects of culture to other aspects of people’s lives.

“For me, it’s important that culture is everywhere; in schools, in healthcare, and in the public arena,” she said in a statement.

“We know that culture makes people healthy. I’m convinced that culture and art, with its integrity preserved, can create important added value in conjunction with other areas of society.”

The programme works from a broader definition of culture which, along with theatre visits, also includes activities such as visits to public gardens and enrolling in handicrafts courses.

“The sort of cultural activities to be arranged would be experiences which strengthen self-confidence and provide continuity; culture should be a complement to regular care,” Christina Gedeborg-Nilsson, head of the culture and healthcare division with Region Skåne, told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

According to SvD, health authorities in Umeå are also seeking funding to support a similar project in northern Sweden.

A final report on the results of the programme is to be submitted to the government in June 2011.

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