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Evidence shows that arts engagements produce beneficial health-related outcomes, but there remains a major gap in knowledge about the causes of these effects. Identifying the specific mechanisms underlying health benefits could lead to new treatments, and to modifications of existing treatments, that would maximize the benefits, generate opportunities for the arts to be integrated into systems of care, and open avenues for arts education to be incorporated into healthcare training models. The potential impacts outside the conventional boundaries of healthcare delivery may be even more profound. Health research increasingly focuses on models that promote resilience and well-being to prevent disease, especially in newer accountable care models. The NEA Research Lab at UCLA aims to provide evidence of high importance to filling existing gaps in knowledge and accelerating change in valuation of the arts for both healthcare delivery and resilience promotion. Empirical evidence supporting arts’ benefits has been difficult to obtain in part because we lack both widely available, consensus measures of the most relevant outcomes, and an infrastructure to support collecting these measures.

To obtain these critical data we need methods that are:

  • Face valid: constructs have transparent shared meanings that make sense to both arts and health science communities;
  • Reliable: Measurement properties are sound, enabling repeatable measurement and comparable meaning across different settings;
  • Well Validated: The measures are established scientifically to measure the constructs we believe they do, by virtue of their relations with each other and with other relevant outcomes; and;
  • Scalable: The measures can be transported widely, have the same meaning across different settings, and are inexpensive enough, and simple enough, that they can be easily implemented across diverse communities and settings.
  • To provide this infrastructure we are developing the Arts Impact Measurement System (AIMS). The overarching goal is for AIMS to serve as a flexible assessment tool, freely available to the international arts community, enabling the reliable and valid assessment of health and well-being outcomes. AIMS will be developed at UCLA using best practices in modern psychological measurement theory and tested over time in a series of projects that leverage ongoing arts performance activities.

    AIMS will be developed by our team and arts collaborators using an application development environment created at UCLA by our Co-Investigator Dr. Armen Arevian, Director, Translational Technology and Communications Core, Center of Excellence in Behavioral Health at UCLA. The app, “Chorus” (see http://innovationlab.semel.ucla.edu/chorus.html), has been used extensively in his work with Dr. Ken Wells, internationally renowned leader in community based participatory research, and who has worked on arts interventions and assessments of health and wellness outcomes in underserved communities. Expertise in psychological measurement/statistics will be provided by Dr. Ariana Anderson, head of the Computational Neuropsychology Laboratory at UCLA. Oversight of the project, including additional expertise in both psychological measurement of health and well-being outcomes, and the measurement of creativity, will be provided by Dr. Robert Bilder, director of the Tennenbaum Center for the Biology of Creativity and Co-Director of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative Mind Well program.