Guest blog: How is training shaping the future of Creative Health?

A group of people stand in a semi-circle smiling towards the camera

By Professor Helen Chatterjee, Todd Henkin, Maddie Rose, Jamie Eastman and Amalia Restrepo

How is training shaping the future of Creative Health?

The term Creative Health came into being in 2017 following the All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing’s seminal report Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing. The report made ten recommendations, one of which identified a need for more training opportunities for those interested in working in the sector. This need is particularly acute given that there are still very limited opportunities available for healthcare, arts, or creative professionals, researchers or people from wider backgrounds interested in the field to receive specific training. 

To this end UCL established the world’s first Masters in Creative Health in 2021. The programme, now in its third year, seeks to create a new generation of socially engaged scholars and practitioners to meet the needs of a changing health, social care and voluntary third sector, where integrated care, health inequity and the patient experience are mainstreamed into public health. The programme is designed to teach students how to connect scholarship with professional practice and policy in the fields of creative health, social prescribing and community-based approaches to public health, including the role of lived experience. To date the programme has attracted a diverse student base from practicing artists, musicians, curators and other creatives, occupational therapists and other allied health professionals, teachers, public health professionals such as link workers - and many students have experience of working in the voluntary, communities, faith or social enterprise sectors. This rich diversity has created a fertile ground for sharing knowledge, skills development and peer learning which are vital components of the training – and alumni from the programme are using this experience to help grow and shape the field of Creative Health in extraordinary ways as these below stories demonstrate:


Todd Henkin

I’ve written hundreds of songs to map out my emotional landscape. At some point in my journey as a performer and recording artist, I found that helping others write and sing the songs of their lives could bring unique joy and empowerment to anyone, from adult and children refugees to families in the US and UK to international leaders. It’s been a release for me as an artist to have another option for sharing and creating music beyond the grind of self-promotion and gigging.

I am currently working with Breathe Arts Health Research to co-design a songwriting pilot programme in partnership with Evelina London Children's Hospital. This work has been funded by Guy's & St Thomas' Charity, as part of Breathe's broader programme of delivery across Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust. The aim is to support parents at the Evelina’s Neonatal Unit in the long-term care of their children. These parents are in sustained high-stress conditions of uncertainty and emergency. One-to-one songwriting sessions offer them a respite from this stress, a way to be heard, a chance to process what’s happening in their lives, and a creative outlet. The product of their imagining is a song they will have forever as a reminder of the love and resilience they showed, while rising to the task in an impossibly hard life moment.

In my collaborative songwriting practice, I hope to help make more visible the journey of caregivers who are putting their lives on hold and dedicating themselves to care. The next step will be to match glowing feedback and beautiful songs with an evaluation, and I’ll be keen to use my newly acquired Creative Health MASc research skills to co-design an evaluation framework with Breathe and Guy's & St Thomas' clinicians. As part of Breathe's Staff Wellbeing Programme within Guy's & St Thomas', I’ve also been working on co-writing with staff to tell their collective stories and build camaraderie.

I hope to continue to transform the hospital into a place that heals and empowers parents with confidence, pride, and the power of bespoke music as they navigate a rollercoaster of emotions from a bedside. I’m also pleased to be presenting my work in late May in New York at Carnegie Hall’s International Lullaby Conference.


Maddie Rose

Since finishing my MASc in Creative Health, I have started full-time as the Programme and Evaluation Lead at Creative Health Camden (CHC). Up until last year, the charity was called Free Space Project, we decided to change the name and update the brand to better reflect the work that we do, and how the terminology in the arts and health sector has evolved. The re-brand was a 3-month project, which I did most of from New York, whilst also writing my dissertation for my MASc. The name CHC was chosen as it was felt that the term truly reflected what CHC do and where the charity sits in the Kentish Town Health Centre; a health charity that sits amongst many other health services (we are next door to podiatry and across the hall from breast screening). We utilise a social prescribing model in partnership with the James Wigg Group Practice, the GP in the Kentish Town Health Centre. This means the Doctors can refer their patients to their very own in-house arts charity, rather than having to refer them to external services, who are often overwhelmed and busy. This gives us the unique opportunity to provide creative health services in an environment that the users are already used to; their GP surgery! My specific role has a circularity to it, I am responsible for ensuring our facilitators can run our programmes smoothly and efficiently (this includes everything from linking in referrals to buying cake!) I then evaluate and adapt the sessions according to the evaluation I have received. And then the cycle starts again! By doing it this way, our participants can give feedback to a familiar face but is someone who doesn’t directly facilitate the groups. Ensuring a feeling of safety and trust is maintained. I truly believe that the work we do at CHC is valuable and important, and I can’t wait to see what we get up to next. 


Jamie Eastman

Completing my Masters in Creative Health got me interested in a variety of activities, interventions and research practices designed to stimulate wellbeing. It developed my knowledge and experience in areas I'd become increasingly passionate about since the Covid19 pandemic, namely how and where such phenomena occur, what populations they impact and how public health is funded and delivered. The Creative Health MASc also got me thinking specifically about how creative practices can inform policy making in public health and public health research relative to mental wellbeing. 

Since graduating I've been fortunate to find employment in settings which have furthered my learning in much of the above. As the Coordinator of the Integrated Health and Wellbeing Team at the Bromley By Bow Centre I support and lead on interventions that grow community health via public engagement and public empowerment. This includes the co-ordination of practical 1:1 support for individuals and community participation in creative and wellbeing groups in the E3 postcode. I'm also growing my skills in 1:1 situations as a Social Prescribing Link Worker, helping people access information, services, advice and social activities in the face of Health Inequalities.

All of this work happens in partnerships with GP Practices, Universities, charities, third sector organisations and some incredible members of the community who believe passionately that everyone has the right to access the means to a healthier life.

For my dissertation I evaluated a project for the BBBC where community members proposed and led - as volunteers - innovative wellbeing groups such as 'Embroidery for Mental Health' or 'Baking for kids and carers'. I now lead the coordination of the latest round of this programme ('Participatory Budgeting')  with findings from my evaluation informing delivery. 

Another example of my work is collaborating with my amazing colleagues to realise a week of engagement activity in the waiting rooms of partner GP practices (see picture). This project (appropriately named Health & Wellbeing Week) helped increase patient awareness of wellbeing services which could make a tangible difference to their personal health 

In the coming years. I hope to return directly to furthering my academic skills and am grateful to have been offered the opportunity to commence a PhD with LSBU. Conducting a study on the extent to which creative methods can overcome obstacles to community participation in public health research, I'm looking forward to continuing a career path which has come about since joining UCL's masters in Creative Health.


Amalia Restrepo

Since completing the MASc Creative Health programme in Fall 2023 I've been working with London Arts and Health, a sector support organisation and a leader in the Creative Health field. I supported the delivery of their event, “London Creative Health City: Building it Together” and am now working in collaboration with Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt on a research project that is looking at the scale, maturity and characteristics of the Creative Health sector in London. This project will assist future policymaking by the Culture and Creative Industries Unit (CCI) at the Greater London Authority and support wider work developing policy and strategy in the capital. Completing the MASc has granted me invaluable opportunities, and I continually apply the skills honed during the programme in my current work.



The Masters in Creative Health operates in partnership with a host of organisations including the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance, the National Centre for Creative Health, the Lived Experience Network and scores of arts, community and other organisations and professionals, without whom it would not be possible to run. The insights, knowledge and experience gained through this model of collaboration represents the blueprint for Creative Health as a practice and we are excited to see where and how our alumni continue to shape and augment the sector.


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Picture credit: Jamie (6th from left) and community health colleagues from across Primary Care Network 6, Tower Hamlets taking a break from engaging patients on the positive benefits of participating in wellbeing activities (XX Place Health Centre, East London, March 2024)