What if we reconceive health as CULTURALLY created? 

Project HEAL (Health. Equity. Art. Learning.) is a transdisciplinary approach to operationalizing artists’ potential as Creative Agents of Change toward a Culture of Health. Health for All is a major societal goal of governments, and the cornerstone of sustainable community development. IDEAS xLab believes that artists have a key and important role to play in catalyzing and sustaining movement toward the goal. 

Project HEAL uses an arts and culture approach to: 

  • Impact community-wide health.
  • Prioritize health and equity as a core responsibility of governments to its citizens.
  • Affirm the compelling and urgent need for effective policy coherence for health and well-being at the community and municipal levels.
  • Find new ways to catalyze and sustain engagement and collaboration from citizens with the “lived experience” that health policies are intended to most benefit.
  • Ignite courageous imagination, critical consciousness, political will and strategic foresight.
Louisville, KY: One Poem At A Time launch in Smoketown (April 1, 2017).

Louisville, KY: One Poem At A Time launch in Smoketown (April 1, 2017).

We know that good health enhances quality of life, increases capacity for learning, strengthens families and communities and improves workforce productivity. Likewise, action aimed at promoting equity significantly contributes to health, poverty reduction, social inclusion and security. Project HEAL recognizes that communities have the best insights for creating sustainable, place-based solutions that puts good health within everyone’s reach.  To this end, Project HEAL connects the “grass roots” to the “grass tops” toward health in all policies.

Activating community voices to create, support and sustain health in all community development policies is a primary goal of Project HEAL. Project HEAL uses arts and culture as a form of discovery and language -- creating a feedback loop between policy makers and those most impacted by policy decisions.

This can only be done when communities are civically engaged and share social cohesion around a common goal. However, when a community is suffering from historical trauma such as racism or homophobia, and "time poverty" due to chronic stress and social isolation, catalyzing and sustaining engagement of those most needed at the table is challenging. This is what Project HEAL artists are trained to support.

Project HEAL Planned Sites 

Project HEAL Planned Sites 

Andrew Cozzens' Smoketown Life|Line Project.

Andrew Cozzens' Smoketown Life|Line Project.

Governments have a range of priorities in which health and equity do not automatically gain precedence over other policy objectives. Project HEAL organizes existing arts and culture assets into evidence-based, community-led prototypes.  These arts-based prototypes, designed by and with a community, test how health considerations can transparently be taken into account in policy-making, and open up opportunities for co-benefits across sectors and society at large.

In addition to the community-wide benefits of increased social cohesion and reductions in social isolation due to participation in placed-based, affirming, inclusive, arts and culture experiences, Project HEAL's arts-based approach has added benefits.

IDEAS xLab and our partners are also working to understand the intrinsic and therapeutic, bio-metric benefits (i.e., reduced cortisol levels positively impacting stress) that accrue to individual participants in Project HEAL as well as beneficial impacts on traditional healthcare delivery models including:

  • inducing positive physiological and psychological changes in clinical outcomes
  • reducing drug consumption
  • shortening length of hospital stay
  • promoting better doctor-patient relationships
  • improving mental healthcare.

Project HEAL is a practical response for prototyping solutions that combine health, social and equity goals with economic development, and manage conflicts of interest transparently through experiential arts and culture-based strategies