Art traded for medicine and care

Artists often sacrifice a great deal for their craft and many countries have programs to support starving artists (France gives tax credits and in Japan artists can be named living national treasures). The United States is not known for its altruism toward artists especially in term of health benefits, but one hospital has a creative approach.

On May 2, Amy Duquette, the program coordinator of the Artist Access Program at Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, explained a new program where artists can use their art as a currency for medical services at Woodhull to WalletPop, a consumer finance blog.

"The artists provide a wide range of imaginative services," Duquette said. "One artist, trained in yoga breathing and self-soothing, helps breast-cancer patients remain calm and centered while they are waiting to be seen. Others might read to pediatric patients in that waiting room. An actor might put on role-playing sessions for staff, helping them rehearse how to break bad news to patients and loved ones."

Duquette also announced that a new program is to include "photographers taking pictures of newly-borns to give to the mother as a thank-you for choosing Woodhull hospital."

"In return, the artists earn 40 credits per hour of service. Uninsured patients at this public hospital, part of New York City's health network, pay a flat fee for doctor's visits (including most lab work and x-rays), between $15 and $60 depending on their income. Most artists end up paying around $20 per service, which also includes emergency room and clinic visits. For each hour they devote to helping the hospital, they earn enough credits to pay for two medical visits. By the end of 2008, more than 400 artists had earned credit this way."

This creative model can easily be replicated at hospitals anywhere. For more information on Artist Access, visit: http://www.nyfa.org/files_uploaded/healthfaqs.pdf

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