Dance to Health: the national falls prevention dance programme
Dance to Health, an arts-based exercise programme for the health sector which ‘smuggles’ exercise into local groups and since Covid-19 digitally via Zoom classes and DVD’s for areas with poor broadband.
About the project
We all know the arts’ power to move, inspire and even transform our lives. The music track that gets you up and dancing. The film that makes you cry. The poem that feels it speaks direct to you. And great cultural occasions, such as Glastonbury, which stay with you forever.
You would expect other sectors such as health to have harnessed this power. But there is no arts-based programme for the health sector which has evidence of effectiveness and cost-effectiveness and is available for all who need it.
Aesop Arts and Society exists to make the breakthrough. Its overall vision is ‘A future when arts solutions for society’s problems are valued and available for all who need them’. The first arts solution is called Dance to Health. It addresses the major health problem of older people’s falls. They are the most frequent and serious type of accident in people aged 65 and over. They cost the NHS £2.3 billion a year. They reduce confidence to do daily activities, lead to loneliness, and threaten independence. The risk of falls increases with social deprivation and age.
The NHS’s current solution is a 26-week falls prevention exercise programme, but researchers have concluded these are ‘dull’, provision is patchy, fidelity to required exercises is poor, completion rates are low and, without ongoing maintenance programmes, the improvements in strength and balance are lost in 12 months — yet these programmes are rare. Dance to Health solves all these problems. A Sheffield Hallam University evaluation concluded Dance to Health is ‘an effective and cost-effective means to address older people’s falls’. It smuggles the exercises into creative, sociable and fun dance activity and has created local groups which offer ongoing maintenance programmes.
Dance to Health adapted to the Covid pandemic by developing Zoom classes and DVDs for areas with poor broadband. These continue.
Sales to the health sector began in 2019. They have been doubling every year. This Innovate UK contract will enable Aesop to do four things to realise Aesop’s vision — that Dance to Health is available to all who need it: develop a scalable model for ongoing maintenance programmes and a training programme for local volunteers to deliver this; develop an affordable service for care homes; incubate a national Falls Prevention charity to research and advocate for better services; and grow the workforce of professional dance artists who deliver Dance to Health sessions.