Art lessons and dance classes should be available to patients on prescription as a form of occupational therapy, the Arts Council of Wales is arguing.
The organisation has been gathering data on the benefits of these forms of therapy for some time, and believes they can play a significant role in helping patients to recover from illnesses or injuries both physically and mentally.
Speaking to BBC News, Phil George, chairman of the Arts Council of Wales, explained: "We can see an impact in these projects that might reduce the return of older people to hospital, that can reduce the prescription of antidepressants to people with mental health difficulties in communities, and that can improve health through social connection."
In light of this, the organisation has submitted a report featuring 11 related proposals to the Welsh government, which calls for activities such as art and dance lessons to be made available on prescription to patients, as well as for full-time coordinators for arts and health to be appointed to Wales' seven health boards.
Additionally, the Arts Council of Wales wants arts to become a core part of social prescribing, and for more research to be commissioned into the health benefits of these types of therapies, with funding made available for links between research partners, clinicians and artists.
Previous research has shown that people are more likely to keep attending a dance class than physiotherapy sessions as part of their recovery programme, according to Prue Thimbleby, arts coordinator for the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board.
She brought a successful dance therapy programme for preventing falls to Swansea, which enables older people to improve their strength and balance in a fun and social way, without leaving them feeling like ill patients.
"It's been shown people will go longer and more often to a dance group than an exercise group, so that's a big advantage," Ms Thimbleby explained.
Written by Alex Franklin Stortford
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