Many Vermonters are in some degree of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but for segments of the population who endure isolation even in the best of times, the recent dramatic cessation of social contact comes with particular risks ranging from loneliness and depression to hunger and unmet physical needs that could result in negative health care outcomes.
Northern Counties Health Care and Catamount Arts have partnered to develop an initiative using the arts to engage populations in extreme isolation. A new pilot program, NEK Create HEALth, will provide writing and arts supplies for up to 12 isolated Vermonters, furnishing weekly prompts to encourage participants to share elements of their pandemic experience with the community. Adapted from the Kingdom COVID Chronicles, a family sketchbook project recently launched by Catamount Arts, NEK Create HEALth includes supplies, weekly check-ins, and individualized support as needed. Like Kingdom COVID Chronicles, NEK Create HEALth will culminate in the temporary collection of participants’ work for the curation of a public exhibit and celebration. Additionally, the partners will measure whether the program changes the health outcomes and needs of program participants.
NEK Create HEALth is a demonstration of how Northern Counties Health Care is committed to working with community partners to provide patients with the right care at the right place and the right time. "We believe in taking care of the whole person, which includes their physical health, mental health, and connection to others in the community," said Michael Costa, CEO of Northern Counties Health Care. "I am pleased that we can work with a trusted community partner in Catamount Arts to try and help our patients in new ways during this unusual time."
Jody Fried, executive director of Catamount Film & Arts, added, “The arts and artists are part of the strength and fabric of this region, and we are excited to be asked to use our creativity and expertise to help our most vulnerable community members."
The project will include rigorous monitoring and measurement to determine its impact and whether this type of work should continue and expand. The work is funded through grants provided to Northern Counties Health Care by the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is the primary federal agency for improving health care to people who are geographically isolated and economically or medically vulnerable. See https://www.hrsa.gov/.