Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health
Together for more healthy years
Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health
Header image AJSPH


Art can help humanize healthcare

Datum:13 februari 2024
Ferdinand Lewis & Kirsten Krans
Ferdinand Lewis & Kirsten Krans

The white paper 'Arts in Health in the Netherlands: Setting the Agenda' will be officially launched in Groningen on 16 February. According to initiators Kirsten Krans and Ferdinand Lewis, art makes healthcare more human and can contribute to the current transition from disease-focused to person-centered care.

With 'arts in health', different forms of art are used to promote health and well-being. According to Kirsten Krans, Program Director Arts in Health Netherlands, a lot is happening in this field in the Netherlands. 'There are several beautiful initiatives. However, at the moment it is still very fragmented. With Arts in Health Netherlands, we want to defragment the field and create a shared vision for the Netherlands, for practice, as well as research and education.'

Call to action

To support this mission, the organisation prepared a 'white paper' outlining the agenda and goals for the next 10 years in the field of arts and health. The document also includes all relevant literature. 'The white paper was written based on roundtable discussions with over a hundred stakeholders. From this dialogue, the white paper was written as a 'call to action'. Ultimately, the initiative has to come from the field itself.'

According to Ferdinand Lewis, Director of Science and Education, the paper is for anyone interested in the field of arts and health. 'Suppose you are a policy maker in a hospital and you want to take the next step in arts in health, then the white paper is a good starting point. The document contains information on the how, what and why of arts in health.'

Humanizing Healthcare

According to Krans and Lewis, current healthcare is overly focused on technology. Also, doctors and nurses have less time to be compassionate, despite the fact that this is precisely why they chose their profession. Lewis: 'Arts can humanise the healthcare experience. It gives space to the human in us: People who are being creative focus on the part of them that is well, not the part that is sick.'

Art is not offered as a cure, Lewis stresses. 'It's not that a Rembrandt radiates 'goodness'. It requires active participation. Making art encourages individuals to approach their illnesses differently, providing a sense of comfort. It also aids in reducing feelings of loneliness and alienation.’ Moreover, Lewis notes that the current healthcare system is reaching its limits. Due to an aging population and other factors, our healthcare system is collapsing. The system will have to focus more on prevention to keep people out of hospital. And art can help with that.'


In the current healthcare setting, high workloads are commonplace. According to Krans, art in healthcare actually supports the work of health professionals. 'Take (live) music at a hospital bedside, for example. We know from research that this makes patients calmer, which eases the workload for nurses, but more importantly it opens the door to a different type of interaction and conversation between caregivers and patients. Art can humanize the healthcare experience.’

In addition, Lewis points out that participating in arts in health is voluntary, unless it is specifically art therapy. 'It's about a personalised, democratic approach. Art revolves around creativity and curiosity, provided people have access to it. We hope that through arts in health people will try things out and participate. In short, art is just inspiring, playful and fun. And we know from scientific research that it is actually good for you.'

Arts in Health Netherlands is supported by the Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health, Nationaal Programma Groningen, and the University of Groningen. On 16 February, the white paper will be launched at the Grand Theatre in Groningen. During the 'Care Through Creativity' event, the paper will be officially handed over to officials, and a panel discussion will take place between several Dutch and international experts, including Christopher Bailey, Arts in Health Lead for the WHO, Kornelia Kiss from Culture Action Europe; Barbara van Leeuwen en Hanneke van der Wal-Huisman, both UMCG; Barbara Groot, VU; Marlies Tal, LKCA; Tineke Abma, Leyden Academy. Interested? You can register here.