Doctors in Brussels are prescribing museum and gallery visits as part of a three-month pilot scheme designed to aid mental health amid the COVID pandemic.
Patients being treated for stress at Belgium’s Brugmann hospital will be offered free visits to five public sites, including a centre for contemporary art, a fashion museum, and – slightly bizarrely – a sewer museum.
Delphine Houba, Brussels city councillor for culture and tourism, proposed the idea after being inspired by a similar scheme in Quebec where doctors can prescribe up to 50 museum visits a year to patients. “It has been shown that art is good for mental and physical health,” she told L’Echo. “The COVID crisis, accentuating stress, burnout, and other pathologies, has confirmed the relevance of such a project.”
The results of the pilot will be published next year with the intention that the initiative can be rolled out further, if successful in alleviating symptoms of burnout and other forms of psychiatric distress.
The UK has previously trialled similar ideas of prescribing social endeavours for dementia patients. In 2017, an all-party parliamentary group report recommended that the NHS incorporate arts on prescription into their plans and that doctors should be educated on the evidence of its benefits.