top of page

Why a museum trip may just be what the doctor ordered

In an innovative move, Canadian healthcare providers are expanding their prescriptions beyond traditional medications to include a rather unconventional but highly beneficial treatment option - museum visits. The concept is gaining traction across the country as medical professionals recognize the holistic health advantages of art, culture, and nature.

The Canadian Museum of Nature has joined forces with PaRx, a nationwide nature-prescription program, to promote the therapeutic effects of spending time in museums and nature. Dr. Melissa Lem, President of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, highlights the significance of nature time, equating it to diet, exercise, and sleep in terms of importance for overall well-being. These museum trips serve as a form of "social prescribing," aimed at reducing anxiety and stress while enhancing patients' mental and emotional health. The initiative allows over 11,000 regulated healthcare professionals, including nurses, psychologists, and occupational therapists, to prescribe museum passes, enabling patients to enjoy the wonders of museums as part of their treatment plan.

The health benefits of such an approach are not limited to Ottawa. In Montreal, doctors have collaborated with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to prescribe museum visits to patients with various medical conditions, including mental illness, eating disorders, diabetes, and high blood pressure. This pioneering pilot project allows physicians to issue up to 50 prescriptions, granting free admission for a family of four to the museum. Nathalie Bondil, the museum's Director-General, emphasizes how art stimulates neural activity and enhances overall well-being. Patients and their loved ones can experience art therapy as part of their treatment, offering a valuable escape from their conditions and releasing hormones that can alleviate chronic pain. This complementary approach aims to help patients while doctors closely monitor its impact through follow-ups and research. The museum is actively involved in multiple clinical trials exploring the health benefits of art for various conditions, including breast cancer, epilepsy, mental illness, and Alzheimer's disease.

Meanwhile, in Toronto, a groundbreaking pilot program allows doctors to prescribe "social prescriptions" to promote social connections and community bonds to improve health. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) offers free admission to individuals referred by healthcare providers, community professionals, or social workers. The initiative, initially tested by the Rexdale Community Health Centre with 500 participants, has demonstrated positive outcomes, including reduced medication reliance and increased social engagement. The ROM program is set to expand to involve 20 centers and aims to assist 5,000 people and their families in the next year. Research indicates that non-medical interventions like these can significantly improve health outcomes, leading to reduced doctor visits and healthcare costs. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in Ontario actively supports this initiative, and other institutions have expressed interest in adopting social prescriptions to enhance the well-being of their communities.

In conclusion, as healthcare continues to evolve, it's evident that prescriptions are not limited to pharmaceuticals. Museums have emerged as a unique and valuable part of holistic healthcare, offering patients a dose of culture, art, and nature that can contribute significantly to their well-being. These innovative programs are changing the way doctors treat their patients, recognizing the importance of not just physical health but also mental and emotional well-being. As Canadians increasingly seek alternative treatments, museums are proving to be just what the doctor ordered.



1 view