Humana Foundation launches $1.5M Actors Theatre program to improve health outcomes

Actors hold up their arms to lift another actor in a performance of Actors Theatre of Louisville

Alexander Stuart in Actors Theatre’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” | Photo by Jonathan Roberts

The Humana Foundation is launching a new Actors Theatre of Louisville program to improve people’s health.

The foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of the Louisville-based insurer, will provide $500,000 in each of the next three years to collaborate with the theater on a community initiative to address underlying conditions that affect health risks and outcomes.

The parties have not yet determined details about the program but said that they would focus on “under-resourced” areas in Louisville.

Humana said in a news release that research has shown that exposure to the arts boosts people’s health.

“According to Americans for the Arts, integrating the arts in healthcare can reduce costs by up to $567 per procedure – or up to $2.25 billion a year – increasing immunity, improving clinical outcomes, and shortening hospital stays,” Humana Foundation CEO Walter Woods said.

A portrait of Walter D. Woods

Walter D. Woods

“In fact,” he said, “Arts Council research in the U.K. shows that those who attended a cultural venue or event in the preceding 12 months were 60 percent more likely to report good health, and theater-goers were 25 percent more likely to report being in good health.”

The foundation has sponsored the Actors Theater’s Humana Festival for nearly 40 years, and said the new project aligns with its new strategy to focus on “improved and sustained health outcomes.”

Woods said “it is important to us that every dollar we invest in organizations in Louisville and across the country in targeted communities helps us achieve our goal – health equity in addressing the social determinants of health. The arts are integral to the lives of all people and essential to healthy, vibrant and equitable communities across the nation.”

Actors Theatre’s new Artistic Director Robert Barry Fleming said he was “thrilled to embark on this new chapter with a shared vision for a better, healthier Louisville.”

“The relationship between Actors Theatre and Humana Foundation – the nation’s longest-running partnership between a corporation and a performing arts organization – is built on the belief that civic engagement, community health, and artistic expression are truly collective enterprises,” he said.