That was such good fun! Best webinar for ages!

There should be a bit of movement / dance in all these webinars!

That was fun, I don’t know what people passing by my house must have thought!

Those were the reactions from Social Prescribing Link Workers who danced along to our Dance to Health Dance Artist Charlotte Haddon’s imaginative approach to falls prevention in a webinar led by our CEO and Founder Tim Joss. NHS Improvement has been running seminars throughout lockdown for link workers and Aesop were invited to present “Connecting People to the Arts Through Social Prescribing”.

The Link Workers learned about the different types of art: performing arts, literary and media arts and visual arts. These broad definitions encompass everything from Morris dancing and K-Pop to World of Warcraft and wood carving! They looked at examples of passive and active participation in the arts. But there is a further step in the ladder of engagement, one which Dance to Health exemplifies, developmental participation. Some arts activities are specifically designed to tackle a health issue through the way a participant engages with the art form.

Tim handed over to Michelle Barrett from The Reader, a project which uses literary and media arts to support people with physical and mental health issues, addiction or other social difficulties. Through shared reading of a common text, discussion and social interaction the reading groups improve wellbeing and reduce social isolation.

The baton was then passed to Prof. Stephen Clift from Canterbury Christ Church University who emphasised the importance of using evidence-based interventions. By discussing the evaluation results from the Artlift scheme, Stephen raised some important points for Link Workers to consider. If a scheme is delivered by arts professionals but works with people with significant physical or mental health challenges, how can the facilitators be trained in the skills needed to manage the task? What referral criteria should be used for schemes with limited places? Do the existing screening tools for health disorders do the job?

A last, rather poignant, problem was also introduced to the Link Workers: participants can feel abandonment and even bereavement at the end of an arts and health intervention. This really brought home to the audience the importance of longer term sustainable arts and health programmes rather than short term quick fixes.

Then it was time to try out an arts and health intervention. Charlotte led the assembled Link Workers through a 10 minute taster of Dance to Health and they loved it. As a result of the interest in Dance to Health Online we are pleased to be able to announce a new national online class which will be open to any over 55s.  Social Prescribing Link Workers who want to refer people to the online sessions, please join our mailing list here.