Arts activities promote health: An interview with Dr Nisha Sajnani, co-director of the Jameel Arts & Health Lab
In a recent interview, Nisha Sajnani, co-director of the Jameel Arts & Health Lab at the Steinhardt School at New York University (NYU) explains the importance and value of cultural activities for improving the mental and physical wellbeing of people. According to Nisha, over the past two decades there has been a significant increase in research into the effects of the arts on health and well-being. Indeed, in 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published the first report that synthesises the results of more than 3000 studies that have identified a major role for art and art therapy in the prevention and promotion of health, management and treatment of disease throughout life.
Arts activities often combine multiple components that are all known to promote health. These include pleasure, aesthetic engagement, imagination, sensory activation, evocation of emotion, cognitive stimulation, and, depending on the nature of the activity, social interaction and physical activity. Each of these components can trigger psychological, physiological, social and behavioural responses that have a positive impact on health.
The Jameel Arts & Health Lab was launched in 2023 as a collaborative effort between the WHO Regional Office for Europe, the Steinhardt School at NYU, Community Jameel and CULTURUNNERS. The lab aims to amplify scientific research on how the arts can improve human health and wellbeing, and represents the first major arts and health initiative in the history of the WHO.