The year 2013 was a challenging one worldwide … weather disasters, the toll of human conflict (some of it right in our own backyard), and the increasing burdens of chronic illnesses affecting our communities. What 2013 reinforced is the reality that there is no shortage of work to be done in bringing the benefits of creative expression to individuals and communities.

FAH_10-yrsOur efforts to respond to these crises and growing needs have spurred the growth of the organization; and with an expanded team and additional funding, we are uniquely positioned to explore, empower, and engage with greater impact in 2014.

Next month, which is Heart Health Month and Black History Month, we begin to explore using creative expression approaches – specifically story circles — to improve self-management and reduce healthcare costs among African American women with diabetes, through a study at Boston Medical Center, funded by Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts. Diabetes affects at least 23.6 million adults in the US, the majority of whom have uncontrolled blood glucose. The condition has a disproportionate effect on African Americans, who, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, are up to twice as likely to develop the condition as white Americans, and who comprise 65% of diabetes patients at Boston Medical Center. We look forward to giving over two dozen local women the opportunity to participate in the six-week pilot program beginning February 13, and to developing a toolkit based on the creativity enhanced story circle process, to allow the program to be easily replicated in other settings.

In the area of trauma, we remain committed to continuing our work with innovative on-site programs that are a lifeline for veterans with TBI and PTSD, seeking out new ways creative expression can improve their physical, mental, and emotional well being.

We are also developing empowering, on-line and mobile, self-guided creative arts programs that anyone can use, and experience personally how creative expression can improve health and quality of life. Meanwhile, we are casting our nets wider to build awareness through social media and a new blog, to engage a diverse online community so we may share ideas from the leading edge of science and art, personal stories of healing, and original creative works with more who wish to learn, and more who wish to help.

As we embark on this exciting new phase, we invite you to get creative! Here are three things you can do to get the ball rolling:

1. Watch our video, Can Art Be Medicine?, for real, inspiring stories of people whose health and well being have improved through creative expression.

2. Like our Facebook page! Every day we post articles from around the world about people just like you who have become happier and healthier by engaging in creative expression.

3. Decide today that art can be medicine, and take one simple action toward being creative, whether it is journaling, crafting a haiku that captures a feeling or mood, making or listening to music you love, knitting, oil painting or finger painting, tap dancing, or any type of creative movement. Whatever your chosen creative outlet, give it a go for a few minutes today! Need a jump start? Watch a great TED Talk on “How to Build Your Creative Confidence” below (including the wonderful story of how one doctor creatively transformed the MRI experience for pediatric patients)!

We also encourage you to share with us how your creative pursuits are improving your health and quality of life. Send us your story with photos or short video clips of your creative work, and they may appear on our website, newsletter, and Facebook page this year! Feel free to e-mail them with something about yourself to share@artandhealing.org.

As always, we welcome your comments, questions, and contributions!

We are deeply grateful for your support, and for the opportunity to carry on our work for the past 10 years! We at the Foundation for Art & Healing look forward to continuing our journey together with all of you, making positive changes in 2014 and beyond!

All the best to you in art and healing,

Jeremy Nobel, MD, MPH
President and Founder, Foundation for Art & Healing

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