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ASU's Creative Health Collaborations awarded $150,000

The team will use the funding to study how the arts impact care in three different situations


A pedestrian walks by the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts on the Tempe Campus on Friday, March 1, 2019, in Tempe. 

ASU’s Creative Health Collaborations was awarded $150,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts to form a new lab called the Caregiving Research Lab, which will conduct research on the impact the arts have on individuals in three different caregiving situations.

The lab will study the effects of theater on special needs children and their families, an app for cancer patients to foster narrative expression through journaling and aiding veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and their families through music.

The grant will allow the lab to focus on other aspects of recovery than just medication and procedures, Tamara Underiner, co-director of the Creative Health Collaborations, associate dean for academic affairs at the Graduate College and associate professor in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, said. 

“We’re human beings, we were given five senses to help us cope with the world,” Underiner said. 

The lab had applied for the award multiple times in the past, but this year marks the first that the Creative Health Collaborations Lab has won, Underiner said. 

“There are typically small grants that are available to us,” Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts Dean Steven Tepper said. “This (grant) allows us to produce research at a level that's closer to what you might find in sciences and social sciences.” 

The grant is designed to create programs that will integrate culture and creativity into different spaces like healthcare, Tepper said. In healthcare, interdisciplinary teams of researchers can evaluate efficacy and evidence of the impact the arts have on individuals.

Creative Health Collaborations formed in 2015 in an effort to combine the arts with health and health disciplines. 

“It is naive to think that complex problems can be solved by one perspective versus having people come together because there is context and multiple layers to issues,” David Coon, co-director of the lab, associate dean and professor of the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation said.

“We have to work in the edges of problems of research and the intersections of where you work,” he said. “It may not only solve a problem but also advance disciplines and interdisciplinary interprofessional work.”

The first of the three projects is giving special needs children the opportunity to engage in theater.

Each child can take on different roles in producing a play, Underiner said. She said some children may benefit from an acting role while others may find more joy production. 

Families of the children will also have the ability to see their child express themselves creatively. Members of the lab hope to see the parents and children connect more through the experience, Underiner said. 

The lab will also develop an app to provide prompts for patients to engage with to track their mental well-being while providing a therapeutic journaling experience. 

“You talk about your journey with the treatment and recovery,” Underiner said. “Then the app tracks measures of your own well-being.”

The last project explores how music aids veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and their families. To do so, focus groups will talk with veterans and their family members about how music impacts their mood and behavior. The project is still in developmental stages and focus groups will begin within the next few months, Coon said. 

The co-directors of Creative Health Collaborations want to use the three projects to bring credibility to the idea that humanities and arts can bring something positive to the health industry. 

“We believe in this,” Underiner said. “We want to give people a reason to believe in us.” 

Reach the reporters at and and follow @wmyskow and @celzuniga   on Twitter. 

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Wyatt MyskowProject Manager

Wyatt Myskow is the project manager at The State Press, where he oversees enterprise stories for the publication. He also works at The Arizona Republic, where he covers the cities of Peoria and Surprise.

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