ORLANDO, Fla. – Two powerhouse institutions in Central Florida are embarking on a new research project to study how art can affect health.
Even before construction began on the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando, plans to partner with Florida Hospital's Translational Research Institute were in the works.
"A lot of people thought it was about building the Arts Center," said Katherine Ramsberger, president and CEO of the Dr. Phillips Center. "Having it come alive with these type of initiatives is really what we set out to do."
The goal is to expand the hospital's Center of Excellence to include several research projects focusing on patients with autism or depression, kids who are at risk and caregivers of family members with Alzheimer's Disease.
"There's a lot of arts therapy around the world, which is wonderful, but is anybody really looking to see clinically does it matter?" Ramsberger said.
According to the most recent data from the United States Census Bureau, Florida leads the country in the number of senior residents, ages 65 and older. Therefore, the inaugural study will focus on caregivers.
After an application process administered by the hospital, 100 patients and 100 caregivers were selected to participate.
"They come to the Arts Center and do this, so they're really going to be immersed in a performing arts environment, a creative environment, along with our team," Ramsberger said.
The team will be teaching participants the same acting techniques actors use at the performing arts center.
Dr. Steven R. Smith, chief scientific officer with Florida Hospital, said the researchers will collect biological measurements of the stress hormone cortisol to track the progress of each of the participants.
"What we would see as an outcome of this is, if we are effective in helping caregivers and patients, we see this as being scalable right, that it's not just a research study, it's an opportunity for us to take a program out into the community and create a broader impact as well," Smith said.
Smith said the study focuses on the resiliency of the caregivers as they are presented with problems.
"Physicians usually say, you know, you need to eat right and take your medicine and get some exercise, I think it'd be great if they added a fourth," Ramsberger said.
The study is expected to take over a year to complete.