Canadian doctors to prescribe museum visits to treat patients
A trip to an art gallery may be more than just intellectually stimulating, as a group of Canadian doctors will soon prescribe museum visits as treatment for an array of ailments.
Starting November 1, physicians from Medecins francophones du Canada (MdFC) will be able to prescribe patients visits to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) in a first initiative of its kind targeting health and wellness through art.
These prescriptions will enable patients, accompanied by family or care-givers, to enjoy the health benefits of art on a free visit to the museum, MMFA said in a statement.
The MMFA-MdFC Museum Prescriptions programme is a new treatment tool that makes museum visits accessible to thousands of patients suffering from a variety of physical and mental health problems, it said.
The prescriptions contribute to a patient’s well-being and recovery by offering free admission to a safe and relaxing environment.
It also provides a revitalising experience, a moment of respite, and an opportunity to strengthen ties with loved ones, according to the statement.
In the first phase of the project, participating physicians will be able to issue up to 50 prescriptions for a visit to the MMFA collections and exhibitions.
“I am convinced that in the 21st century, culture will be what physical activity was for health in the 20th century. Cultural experiences will benefit health and wellness, just as engaging in sports contributes to fitness,” said Nathalie Bondil, Director General and Chief Curator of the MMFA.
“Sceptics would do well to recall that just a hundred years ago, sports were believed to distort the body and threaten women’s fertility. Just as doctors now prescribe exercise, they will be able to prescribe a visit to the MMFA,” Bondil said.
More and more studies show that contact with works of art has a real impact on people’s physical and mental health, noted Helene Boyer, Vice-President of MFdC, and an associate professor at McGill University in Canada.
The museum prescription programme follows another pilot project launched in 2017, which makes it possible to recommend group art therapy sessions at the museum to certain patients, tailored to their state of health and pathologies, the statement said.
The artistic experience and contact with works of art have a positive impact on health and well-being, as described in Pedro Mendonça’s meta-analysis of numerous studies, it said.
The studies stipulate that the arts stimulate neuronal connectivity that supports psychological resilience.
They also show a positive impact on attention and working memory, promoting relaxation and more complex neural activity.