Brisbane and STBP
My trip to Brisbane to contribute as key note speaker and conductor for the final Sing to Beat Parkinson’ s concert was very rewarding. The symposium held over three days in the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University , was both to examine and promulgate the results of a six month research programme using group singing with seventy eight people with Parkinson’s ( PWP) none of whom had sung before in a choral group. The weekly programme of singing activities ,held in three different locations and facilitated by three choral leaders similarly fresh to the experience of working with PWP, was devised by Dr Yoon Irons whom I met three years ago in Brisbane and who came to our Aldeburgh training in 2017. The rigorous protocol utilised shared resources, identical time allocation, weekly ‘homework’ for the participants and a variety of recording methods to capture some of the activities en route.
At the end of the six month period standard assessment tools were used to measure the impact of the group singing, ( pdq 39, DASS etc) producing a huge amount of data which was analysed by Dr Irons and Prof Don Stewart, professor of public health at Griffith .
The results are quite wonderful ( both with regard to the trial and by implication) with improvements shown in each of the areas measured with only one exception.The main outcome is that singing reduced stigma, in which was noticed the biggest improvement compared with other aspects of quality of life measures. Singing in groups also improved emotional wellbeing, social support and reduced depression, anxiety and stress levels. In all these improvements, Yoon Irons and Don Stewart detected a statistical significance and whilst ‘ clinically’ speaking, it is probably a ‘small’ improvement any improvement must be welcomed in a condition associated with gradual deterioration. Additionally all the participants were interviewed and this data demonstrated quite amazing achievements during the six month period.
Yoon presented all the results as part of the first days research and delivery team seminar in great detail with sub section analysis of the data. She then made the ‘public ‘ presentation on Friday to a wider audience which included speech therapists, voice and speech pathologists, a consultant gerontologist and others including some members of the three singing groups.
Her presentation was prefaced by a panel discussion, Parkinson’s Disease, Neurosciences and the carer: implications for singing programme. ( still using disease here!) with significant and assuring contributions from neurologist Prof George Mellick ( convinced through his research that singing is as worthy an intervention as any drug…he was made Dean of the School of Medicine the day before!) and Prof Melissa Kendall, psychologist in the Rehab Dept of a Brisbane hospital and whose mother is a PWP and as such contributed as a carer too).
Again an interesting mix within the audience of medics, allied health professionals and arts and health practitioners.
I followed Yoon with my keynote presentation for the remainder of the morning, whilst in the afternoon another presentation confirming the impact of group singing from Robin Matthews , Parkinsons Disease and community based singing therapy in Tauranga , New Zealand. A RCT with very positive outcomes which formed also the basis of his PhD.
A final panel of contributions from Robin as a speech therapist, Erica Rose , dance therapist and director Dance for Parkinson’s Australia, and Robyn Lamont , Physiotherapist , presented reaffirming evidence of the efficacy of arts for PWP.
The final day started with a live radio interview on national radio, at 7.00 ,followed by a further three tv interviews! and ended with a moving celebratory concert by the three research groups, testimony to the results which had been revealed the day before . The media coverage has been immense with news bulletins leading on the symposium and national television including coverage in their news output throughout the remainder of Saturday Feb 3. This media interest is mirrored by the desire for Sing to Beat Parkinson’s ®to be the vehicle for a measurable impact on the lives of PWP, in Australia, New Zealand ,China,South Korea and the UK.
A small,pebble thrown into the pond three years ago in Brisbane has resulted in wonderful ripples of change for these and others in the future. All three groups intend to stay together and be part of our international organisation, Sing to Beat Parkinsons!
All best wishes
Here are some of the media links :
ABC Radio National Breakfast – http://www.abc.net.au/ radionational/programs/ breakfast/2018-02-05/9396046