Arts on Prescription in the Baltic Sea Region
Arts on Prescription

Arts on Prescription in Bremen - an inclusive model

06 December 2023
The first pilot phase at the Bremer Volkshochschule (vhs) started in October 2023. The Arts on Prescription approach is based on an inclusive model in which particpants select courses from the open program of Bremen's cultural institutions. Following the successful start in Bremen, the project partners see great potential to further develop the cooperation between the health and cultural sector.
Technical details

Since the beginning of 2023, Bremen has been part of the Interreg project Arts on Prescription in the Baltic Sea Region (AoP), which is being co-funded by the Interreg Baltic Sea Region programme. Under the leadership of Odense Municipality in Denmark, further organisations from Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden are taking part in the project alongside Germany, which is set to run from 2023 to 2025. Bremen is the only federal state in Germany taking part in the project, which is being implemented by the Ministry for health, women and consumer protection, the Ministry for culture and the Bremer Volkshochschule (vhs, adult education centre).

The idea behind the AoP project is that people with a diagnosed mental condition such as depression, stress or anxiety, or people at risk of developing such a condition get a prescription not for medicine or therapy, but for taking part in regular arts activities in group settings. This has been proven to have positive health effects and to improve mental wellbeing. The authorities and institutions in the health and cultural sector still lack knowledge on how to set-up, organise and evaluate such concepts. Moreover, there is a lack of long-term funding and sustainable anchoring in the health systems. In order to establish sustainable structures, the project is currently testing the concept in different partner countries of the Baltic Sea Region.

Bremen’s contribution in this piloting phase is entitled Inclusion. It offers free participation in selected courses from the open program of Bremen’s cultural institutions as well as accompanying group meetings. The first pilot phase at the Bremer Volkshochschule (vhs) runs from October to December 2023 and has already got off to a successful start. AoP-participants of the piloting phase had the opportunity to take part in five vhs courses in the areas of singing, drawing, painting and creative writing. Consultations have also taken place, and more are planned already. For the second pilot phase (April to June 2024), even more places will be available, and the offer will be extended to other cultural institutions.

Just over 30 prescription-referring facilities in Bremen are currently participating in the project, including GPs, psychotherapists, advice centres, a day clinic, a rehabilitation project and the health workers in the neighbourhood. Other institutions have already expressed interest in this area, too.

Overall, there has been a great deal of interest and positive feedback from both the health and cultural sectors. The health sector hopes to diversify its health services and relieve the burden on the healthcare system. In addition, non-medical or non-therapeutic but health-related needs can be addressed, or lifestyle-related prevention promoted. For the cultural sector, it is about recognizing the importance of art and culture for mental and social well-being, tapping into new target groups and further developing their own services and additional funding opportunities. The project partners in Bremen see great potential in linking the two areas in particular. >>Bremen’s Volkshochschule has always been active in both health promotion and culture. We are very pleased to be able to further develop this interface through the project,<< says Susanne Nolte, Deputy Director of Bremer vhs.