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3rd March 2017 Sara Lock

Dance to Health achieves better outcomes than the primary falls prevention programme

By: Karen Hamilton, AESOP


Aesop shares the results of its falls prevention dance programme, Dance to Health.

Executive summary

Aesop set out to create an exemplar 'aesop' - an arts intervention which responds to a major health challenge and is of consistent quality, evidence-based from a health point of view, effective, cost-effective, sustainable and scalable.

The chosen major health challenge was older people's falls and problems with some current falls prevention exercise programmes. The proposed solution, Dance to Health, smuggles evidence-based exercise programmes into creative, social and engaging dance activity.

The Pilot Programme included bridge-building between the worlds of dance and older people's exercise, training of dance artists, six evidence-based falls prevention programmes with 196 participants, sharing/celebration events and an evaluation programme.

The key results were:

  • A 7-item checklist of required ingredients for an arts programme to be taken up by the health system and made available to every patient who could benefit.
  • The worlds of dance and older people's exercise can be brought together.
  • Dance artists can be trained in the evidence-based falls prevention programmes.
  • Two groups were inspected for fidelity to the evidence-based programmes. Fidelity was confirmed.
  • The final programme had a waiting list and 73% of participants achieved the target of 5 hours' attendance over the six months. The national average for completing standard falls prevention exercise programmes is 31% for primary prevention and 46% for secondary prevention.
  • Increases were achieved in dance interest and ability, group identification, relationships and reduced loneliness, functional health and wellbeing, and mental health and wellbeing. A few elements were statistically significant. These outcomes should continue to be measured as Dance to Health develops.
  • Dance to Health is capable of generating better outcomes and being associated with lower overall costs of managing falls compared to the primary prevention programme or no intervention.
  • Five principles established for involving older people:
    • listening to participants
    • achieving a measurable transfer of power to participants
    • outcomes defined by the participants and co-produced with them
    • the outcomes are describable by the participants
    • participants are involved in assessing the achievement of outcomes
  • Dance to Health has been codified in preparation for scaling
  • Research by Middlesex University Business School identified ten success factors for Dance to Health's financial sustainability.
  • A business model for early-stage roll-out was devised. This consists of an evidence-based 'Improvement Programme' which is funded by the health sector and an ongoing 'Maintenance Programme' which is locally sustainable.
  • Translating the evidence-based falls prevention programmes was an enjoyable challenge for dance artists. Without this it would be difficult to see Dance to Health growing; if delivering Dance to Health is boring, dance artists are likely to be reluctant to contribute.

Image courtesy of Aesop © Helen Murray

Download the evaluation report to read on:
Dance to Health: evaluation of the pilot programme (PDF)

| Published:2017

Smart tags: health evidence dance

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