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Measuring the Effects of Murals in Hospitals

Man paints a colorful mural in a hospital. The mural depicts healthcare workers and patients.

Harlem Hospital. Artwork by Angel Garcis. Courtesy of the Arts in Medicine department at NYC Health + Hospitals

The Jameel Arts & Health Lab is embarking on a research study to gain a foundational understanding of the impact of murals in hospitals and how to evaluate these programs across diverse cultural contexts.

The largest study of its kind, the Hospitals Murals Evaluation (HoME) project seeks to document the perceived outcomes of murals in hospital settings in Slovenia, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These global sites were selected because of their history of previous work, including Hospital Rooms in the UK.

Another collaborator is New York City Health + Hospitals’ Arts in Medicine department, whose goal is to foster emotional well-being and promote healing for patients, families, and caregivers by incorporating literary and performing arts together with their visual art collection – including dozens of murals – in evidence-based design throughout their hospital spaces and programs. In fact, NYC Health + Hospitals is responsible for nearly 7,500 works of art that appear across their network of hospitals, nursing homes, diagnostic and treatment centers, and more.

“We know that the inclusion of visual art in hospitals is a centuries-old practice that is generally viewed positively by both patients and staff, but that the quality of the evidence is not uniformly high,” says Nisha Sajnani, co-director of the Lab, associate professor and director of the drama therapy program at NYU Steinhardt, and co-principal investigator for HoME. “So now we are looking to rigorously evaluate it with a view to encouraging the widespread expansion of this low-cost, non-invasive practice if it proves to be beneficial.”

Nisha Sajnani

We are looking to rigorously evaluate [the inclusion of visual art in hospitals] with a view to encouraging the widespread expansion of this low-cost, non-invasive practice if it proves to be beneficial.

Nisha Sajnani, Co-Director of Jameel Arts & Health Lab, Associate Professor and Director of the Drama Therapy Program, and Co-Principal Investigator for HoME

HoME will launch during National Arts and Health Week Nigeria, where the project team will present examples of murals in their respective sites and discuss project milestones, which include a scoping review that examines available evidence about the effects of viewing visual art in hospitals and care settings. This fall, researchers will embark on a formative evaluation, grounded in a culturally competent framework, that will examine the effects that murals are having in each context and across sites.

“This evaluation represents an important step towards better understanding the potential impacts that hospital murals have for patients, visitors, and staff.” says Marcel Foster, research and evaluation associate with the Lab and co-principal investigator for HoME. “Through building on existing data, our global team hopes to uncover further evidence of the central role that artists and artmaking may have in healthy and healing environments.” 

The research team includes members from Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Norwich University of the Arts, the Arts in Medicine department at NYC Health + Hospitals, and the University Children’s Hospital Ljubljana. Additional researchers include members from the Center for Arts and Medicine at the University of Florida and Harvard University. 

The Jameel Arts & Health Lab was established by NYU Steinhardt, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe, Community Jameel, and CultuRunners to facilitate scientific research into the effectiveness of the arts in improving health and well-being in overlooked and underserved communities and to scale promising practices. 

Funding for the HoME project was provided by the Alexander and Ilse Melamid Charitable Foundation and the Arts in Medicine department at NYC Health + Hospitals.

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