Paediatric Looking Forward Days for Young People Living with Long-Term Health Conditions

lThe Looking Forward Days launched in August 2018 at St Mary’s hospital and was aimed at young patients living with long-term health conditions. Taking place three times a year, patients and clinical staff at St Mary’s were invited to visit some of London’s most exciting art galleries. During bespoke art workshops at various venues, patients used art and photography to explore different aspects of their conditions – from sexual health to self-perception and stigma.

A recent day brought patients to Autograph gallery in East London, where they were given the opportunity to look at the gallery’s photographic collection before staff showed the group how to create their own portraits whilst thinking about their own identity and health condition..

These trips are essential for young patients living with chronic conditions – allowing them to take time away from their hospital visits at St Mary’s whilst socialising with other patients and grow their support network.

Every session is evaluated using an evaluation form – it gives the young patients an opportunity to feedback on the content of the sessions and to ask questions about their condition, providing useful insights for the medical team and future days. The feedback received after the previous sessions shows the importance of this activity for the young people:

· 89% of the participants noted that the artistic experience helped them find answers about HIV and felt that participating in Looking Forward Day made them feel more comfortable about talking to their doctor or nurse about their condition.

· 66% of the participants felt more positive about their future.

· 100% of the participants would like to come to attend a future Looking Forward Day

· Before the Looking Forward Day many young patients had never met another person (outside their family) with long term health condition.

“Having that information made me feel that I can deal better with having HIV”– a participant says.

ArtSocial Foundation understands the significance of art activities for vulnerable and isolated young people. In the next 12 months the foundation has committed to fund three more Looking Forward Days and to extend the project to a new group of patients with sickle cell disease.

Luciana Sakellariou