AN arts-health initiative developed by two Castlemaine artists aims to have doctors prescribing activities like singing, dancing and drawing to provide patients therapeutic benefits.
The Cultural Pharmacy Testing Project was developed by artists Eliza-Jane Gilchrist and Carolyn Dew as a way to complement traditional health treatments.
It has been based around research that highlights the therapeutic benefits of engaging in arts and cultural activities.
"There is growing evidence and acceptance that participation in the creative arts supports health care and promotes health and well-being in communities," said Ms Dew.
"Singing can aid respiratory fitness, dancing improves muscle tone and balance, drawing and listening to music reduces stress by lowering cortisol, and joining arts and craft groups connects us with others."
There is growing evidence... that participation in the creative arts... promotes health and well-being.Carolyn Dew
The Cultural Pharmacy's first iteration appeared at Artlands in Bendigo in 2018 as an installation in the Conservatory Gardens.
"It was immensely popular, you could tell people related to it and got a lot out of it," Ms Dew said. "There was interest from other councils and organisation to do something like that elsewhere.
"From that project, we looked to find other avenues to make different versions. Mount Alexander Shire were up for testing a sustainable version and central Victoria is known for its creative community as one its strength."
Mount Alexander Shire Council has received funding from VicHealth to to implement the initiative and Ms Dew and Ms Gilchrist hope to get local GPs involve in the project.
"We would love to hear from local health providers interested in taking part in this pilot project," Ms Dew said. "While this might be a relatively new idea for the shire, the integration of a cultural prescribing service into mainstream health services is something already being practised in some parts of the world."
Mount Alexander Shire cultural development officer Vicki Anderson said the project will encourage more people to benefit from local arts and culture.
"Through COVID-19, it is particularly important that we work collaboratively in exploring new ways to keep our community feeling connected," she said.