A key objective of MARCH was to support new strategies and policies on community engagement & mental health.

Arts & Health

Since 2018, MARCH has collaborated with the World Health Organisation to produce a series of policy reports on how the arts, culture and heritage can affect mental and physical health. Our evidence synthesis review included over 3,000 studies, making it the largest synthesis report ever published. The report was named the Global Aesthetic Achievement of 2019 and has led to new policy initiatives on arts and health in countries across the WHO European Region.

The report was followed by an intersectoral brief showing how the arts and culture are relevant to the Health 2020 goals, which aim to improve global health, reduce inequalities and ensure people-centered health systems. We also published a special edition of the WHO Panorama journal on arts and health.

In the UK, we took this work forward with various government departments and Arts Councils, supporting their strategies and policy and funding decisions. For example, we worked with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, providing evidence for the development of new community arts programmes or increased engagement with social prescribing.

Read the DCMS report

Read our Arts Council England COVID-19 report

Read our Arts Council England Report on the Arts, Culture & the Brain

This report considers how we can collectively improve access to the arts, drawing on new research and case studies of community practice. It has been developed from research and co-production within the MARCH Mental Health Research Network.

Front page - improving access to the arts

Social Prescribing

Social prescribing involves the referral of patients to community activities to support health and wellbeing. These referrals can be made by health or care professionals or by individuals themselves. MARCH has worked closely with the Social Prescribing Network and NHS England on the national roll-out of Social Prescribing in the UK.

During the network’s lifetime, we ran a number of conferences and events on the evidence base around social prescribing. Working with NHS England, we analysed data from electronic patient records to identify who has been receiving social prescribing. We have also published a number of studies exploring what the barriers and enablers to engaging with social prescribing are amongst individuals with mental illness, community organisations and GPs.

We also set up a new large-scale research project (SHAPER) to explore how effective community programmes can be tested in clinical trials and embedded within the health service. We also launched the WHO Collaborating Centre on Arts & Health, focused on international policy development.

BBC Get Creative

MARCH also had a core focus on encouraging individual community engagement. We partnered with the BBC to produce dozens of media pieces on how community engagement benefits mental health.

With the BBC, we ran two Citizen Science experiments to gather new data from 98,000 adults. This has contributed to a number of papers including showing how creativity can help us regulate our emotions and on the development a new scale measuring creativity and emotion regulation (the ERS-ACA scale).

MARCH during COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, MARCH launched the COVID-19 Social Study to track the psychological and social impact of lockdowns. The study involved 72,000 participants followed-up repeatedly over 18 months providing over 1 million surveys. The team published over 100 reports and papers informing decisions taken and support provided across the UK. MARCH also established the COVID-MINDS Network: a network of 160 longitudinal mental health surveys from 70 countries, to allow the cross-national comparison of experiences.

Additionally, we produced an online resource compiling dozens of creative activities people could do from their own homes during lockdowns. We also researched the impact of these activities on mental health.

Key policy reports

During the lifetime of the network, MARCH shared over 200 policy updates with members. Below are some of the key documents published between 2018 and 2021 on community engagement and mental health:

The UCL Institute of Health Equity

The UCL Institute of Health Equity has produced the report 'Build Back Fairer: the Covid-19 Marmot Review', reflecting on how the pandemic has increased inequalities and the steps government and others need to take

The King’s Fund

The King’s Fund has produced a report on Social Prescribing and Community Resilience

Common Vision

Common Vision has released a report on Creativity, Culture and Connection - responses from arts and culture organisations in the Covid-19 crisis

The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, together with the MARCH Network, has produced an evidence summary for policy on the role of arts in improving health and wellbeing

What Works Wellbeing

What Works Wellbeing with the MARCH Network team working on the COVID Social Study have published a briefing paper on how Covid-19 has affected loneliness

The Institute of Labor Economics

The Institute of Labor Economics (in collaboration with the MARCH Network) has produced a report entitled ‘When to Release the Lockdown? A Wellbeing Framework for Analysing Costs and Benefits’

The University of Westminster

The University of Westminster has published the report Mapping Meaningful Outcomes, which examines what successful social prescribing look like

The Baring Foundation

The Baring Foundation has published Creatively Minded: an initial mapping study of participatory arts and mental health activity in the UK

The Heritage Fund

The Heritage Fund has released the Space to Thrive Report, which is a rapid evidence review of the benefits of parks and green spaces for people and communities

The National Trust and the University of Derby

The National Trust and the University of Derby have published the ‘Noticing Nature’ Report, which aims to understand people’s sense of their relationship with the natural world and create everyday interventions in order to improve it for human and nature’s wellbeing

Public Health England

Public Health England has published a report on Community Centered Public Health

Creative People and Places and The Arts Professional

Creative People and Places and The Arts Professional have published a series looking at how arts and culture can reach a broader audience that more accurately reflects local communities

The Historic Landscape and Mental Wellbeing Report

The Historic Landscape and Mental Wellbeing Report has illustrated how archaeological sites, ancient landscapes, and the historic environment are being used successfully as tools to enhance mental health well-being in a range of

The Personal Social Services Research Unit at the LSE

The Personal Social Services Research Unit at the LSE has identified evidence on the relative strengths of activities that have been used as part of social prescribing, including group-based social activities and community volunteering

Public Health England

Public Health England has provided guidance on community and place-based approaches to reducing inequalities

Arts Council England

Arts Council England has included mental health and wellbeing in its draft strategy for 2020-2030

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has produced a policy paper for stronger communities, why communities matter, what strong communities look like, and what government and partners can do to support their creation

Do you want to learn more about how social, cultural and community engagement affects mental health? Take part in our online training course run in partnership with the Royal Society for Public Health.

Celebrating practice