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Image credit: Ebru Art by Raimond Klavins, Flickr Creative Commons, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

How can we use art to improve health? Can theatre, music and visual art have positive effects on physical illness? How and by whom has art been used to lead to positive mental health outcomes? Are there ethical issues surrounding arts-based interventions? Over the past two decades, there has been a marked increase in research investigating the role of the arts in prevention of ill health, promotion of health literacy, and addressing illness across the life span.

In this webinar, we adopt a multidisciplinary approach to introduce and begin to address some of these complex issues. The speakers will address these questions by providing specific examples of how art and health have fruitfully interacted, in contexts such as group singing for maternal mental health, theatre for reduction of HIV/AIDS stigma, and more.

The goal of this webinar is to bring a degree of focus and clarity to the burgeoning research area of arts and health, and to introduce the audience to the value of arts-based interventions in addressing significant public health challenges.


Taiwo Afolabi holds the Canada Research Chair in Socially Engaged Theatre; Director, Centre for Socially Engaged Theatre (C-SET); Representative, ITI/UNESCO Network for Higher Education in the Performing Arts, and an Assistant Professor at the University of Regina. He is an artist, qualitative researcher, theatre manager, applied theatre practitioner and educator with a decade of experience working across a variety of creative and community contexts in over dozen countries across four continents. He researches, creates works, performs, and teaches at the intersection of performance and human ecology. His research interests lie in the areas of applied theatre and policing, social justice, arts and health, decolonization, art leadership and management, migration, and the ethics of conducting arts-based research. Dr. Afolabi has co-edited two books and published articles in various books and reputable journals. He is a Senior Research Associate at the University of Johannesburg (South Africa) and the founding artistic director of Theatre Emissary International.

Katey Warran is Research Fellow in Social Science and Deputy Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Arts and Health in the Department for Behavioural Science and Health, University College London. She is Principal Investigator for a study exploring whether online group dance classes can support the social and mental wellbeing of young people, in addition to leading on qualitative arts and health research for the UCL Covid-19 Social Study (a study investigating the psychological and social impacts of the pandemic). She is an interdisciplinary researcher and draws upon a range of different disciplines in her work including sociology, cultural policy, psychology, performance science, and philosophy.

Nils Fietje is a Research Officer at the WHO Regional Office for Europe, with a background in English Literature and the Cultural History of Medicine. Prior to working at WHO, he was a Senior Adviser at the Wellcome Trust (UK), helping to expand its funding portfolio in the health humanities. At WHO’s Regional Office for Europe, he is leading a project on the Cultural Contexts of Health and Well-being, as part of the Behavioural and Cultural Insights Unit. It is the first systematic research project at WHO to investigate the way in which culture impacts on access, efficacy, and perception of health and well-being. Recently, the project has developed a particular focus on arts and health, having published the first-ever WHO report on the evidence base for arts and health interventions.


Calum Smith is a DPhil student at the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities and the Ethox Centre. 



Image credit: Raimond Klavins, Ebru Art. Flickr Creative Commons. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.