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Interview with Chief Executive of Aesop on Dance to Health

Dance to Health is a pioneering nationwide falls prevention dance programme for older people, which has successfully engaged the health sector in a £2.3 million expansion programme. Building on the pilot in 2015 – 2016 the programme offers older people the choice of an engaging sociable dance-based alternative to exercise programmes. It adds the sociability, creativity and fun of dance to the evidence-based programmes. Jan Burkhardt interviewed Tim Joss Chief Executive of Aesop on Dance to Health to find out more:

What are the necessary conditions for a successful national roll out of a dance programme that meets health outcomes?

 

For a dance programme to engage the health sector at scale it needs to be evidence based, have consistent quality and also be locally co-produced with partners. It needs to show it is cost effective as well as effective and that it can be sustainable. For a programme to have national reach, there may be issues where areas have a lack of dance supply. I want to say a thank you to the Arts Council for funding an infrastructure of community dance organisations that have made this roll out possible. Without them the amazing progress so far would not have been achievable.

What were the challenges of scaling up the Dance to Health project to be a national programme?

 

Finding health partners prepared to commit was tough. We had a long list of 31 potential partners. Six came on board – a mix of NHS and local authority public health – and each is contributing £30K. NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups are now in a restructure which makes things more difficult but the work continues despite that. What was positive is we found that health commissioners were open to piloting promising new ideas and didn’t need all the evidence in place to engage. In the current climate Public Health has less money and complicated Local Authority procurement processes can be a barrier. That said, the six partners have been brilliant and are helping influence others and acting as an intermediary.

 

What are the keys to successfully engaging with the health and wellbeing sector?

 

Well, finding ‘people who get it’ is important, as they will enthuse and influence others. Patient voice is also important and quoting participants’ positive feedback is powerful. Patients who participated have actually lobbied for the programme to continue and it really helped that they were asking for more. Allies at the top of NHS England undoubtedly helped, and building relationships with middle level partners such as NHS Falls Coordinators and Health Improvement Specialists was also important.

 

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One Dance UK, People Dancing and Aesop will continue to influence government at a national level to raise the profile of dance in health and wellbeing and we look forward to other promising dance programmes following Dance to Health’s lead in scaling up and rolling out across the UK.

More info on Dance to Health: www.dancetohealth.org

Dance to Health Abingdon © Helen Murray