Arts, Culture and Heritage: Understanding their complex effects on our health

In the last decade, researchers have increasingly focused on how community resources, or 'assets,' can protect and enhance health and wellbeing. These assets can be mobilised to improve individuals' health, known as an asset-based approach to health.

Assets are wide-ranging. They are the resources, skills and knowledge of individuals, community and voluntary associations, public and private organisations, and physical environments. They include libraries, writing groups, archives, gardens, exercise classes, sporting events, volunteering and charitable groups, and community organisations such as youth services, trade unions, and religious groups. 

There are an estimated 1 million assets within communities in the UK, ranging from theatre societies to community gardens. 

RSPH and University College London (UCL), supported by the MARCH Network, have developed this course to increase knowledge and understanding of how community resources, including arts, culture and heritage activities can improve our physical and mental health and wellbeing.


Aims of the course

On completion, you will understand:

  • What ‘health’ is and the evidence for the influence of arts activities on health outcomes.
  • The barriers people face to accessing arts activities and how interventions and policies can be designed to help overcome them.
  • The active ingredients or components of arts activities that may lead to health and wellbeing outcomes.
  • The biological, social, psychological and behavioural mechanisms through which arts activities can affect mental and physical health and wellbeing.
  • The contextual factors or moderators that influence how the arts affect our health.
  • How researchers can adopt the principles of complexity science to examine the effect of arts activities on health.

Course details:

  • Four hours of study
  • Easy to navigate online resources
  • Auto-saves your progress so can be completed in multiple sittings

Who is the course aimed at?

The course is aimed at early careers researchers and community organisations with an interest in understanding how community resources, including arts, culture and heritage activities can improve our physical and mental health and wellbeing.

How do you access the course? And how long does it take to complete?

You can access the course by visiting the UCL website here. If you do not have an account, you must first register an account of UCL Extend.  

Any questions about the course should be directed to UCL at: [email protected]

The course topics will be split out into five modules, with activities to test your knowledge, as you work through the modules. The entire course involves up to four hours of study.

Course contents

Introduction to the course

  1. The health benefits of engagement
  2. The predictors of engagement
  3. Active ingredients
  4. Mechanisms of action
  5. Modelling complexity