Evaluating Sistema Scotland: A narrative synthesis of evidence relating to the impact of arts and community-based arts interventions on health, wellbeing and educational attainment

Author(s):*Listed Alphabetically
Davies D, Jindal-Snape D, Kelly C, Kroll T, Levy S, Morris J, Scott R, Toma M

Year of Publication:

Glasglow Centre for Population Health

Publication Type:


Sistema Scotland is an organisation using the arts – specifically, music – as a vehicle for social betterment. Through its ‘Big Noise’ programme Sistema Scotland believes that children from disadvantaged backgrounds can gain significant social benefits by playing in a symphony orchestra. The need to better understand the potential role the arts can play in social regeneration and in improving health and reducing inequalities is especially important given that the major burdens to health in Scotland are diseases of a ‘socio-behavioural’ origin such as heart disease, obesity, depression, anxiety, alcoholism and drug misuse. These ‘social’ diseases exert a disproportionate grip on Scotland’s disadvantaged communities and are perpetuated by damaging social behaviours and coping mechanisms, addiction, overconsumption and social exclusion.

Through the evaluation of Sistema Scotland, the Glasglow Centre for Population Health is committed to generating evidence and providing leadership as to the role the arts can play in regeneration, grassroots positive social change and in improving the health and wellbeing of disadvantaged communities. An important first step in the evaluation process was to assess the current evidence concerning the arts and health. With a particular focus on the evidence required to inform the evaluation of Sistema, three distinct systematic literature review work packages were commissioned and the outcomes of these reviews are put forth in this report:

WP1: The impact of art attendance and participation on health and wellbeing
WP2: ‘Arts and smarts’ – assessing the impact of arts participation on academic performance during the school years
WP3: Community-based music programmes, and health and inequalities – the impact on children/adolescents and their families

The commissioned systematic reviews assess the quality of evidence in each work package using a traditional view of the evidence hierarchy. This does mean a disciplined and restrictive view of evidence, but this approach is helpful at the outset of the evaluation in order to highlight studies which have yielded high-quality findings and significant results. Equally valuable is the consideration of the theorised pathways between the arts and health, and potential mechanisms of change – as well as highlighting gaps in evidence across the three work packages. The systematic reviews consider evidence over a ten-year period from 2004 to 2014 and thus provide an overview of recent evidence, methodologies and commentary. This paper is a narrative synthesis of the findings from the three systematic reviews and draws out implications for the role of the arts in society and for the design and delivery of arts programmes as social interventions.

Evidence Type: Systematic Review

Main Focus: Wellbeing / Quality of life

Research Purpose: Discussion / Debate

Context: Community

Participant Group: Children (0-15)

Art Forms: Multi-Arts

Access Type: Free Download

APA Citation:

Jindal-Snape D., Morris J., Kroll T., Scott R., Toma M., Levy S., Davies D., Kelly C. (2014). Evaluating Sistema Scotland: A narrative synthesis of evidence relating to the impact of arts and community-based arts interventions on health, wellbeing and educational attainment. Glasglow: Glasglow Centre for Population Health.