All posts, Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, Research

Mapping Singing for Health Ireland

Help us create the first ever comprehensive map of singing and health initiatives across the Republic of Ireland. By early 2021 we will know what choirs or singing groups exist, where they are located and who can access these.

In recent times there has been an explosion in research and practice in the area of singing, health and wellbeing. Research indicates a range of wellbeing gains from singing in particular (as opposed to music listening and other music activity), including physical, cognitive and social benefits. A wealth of research at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance (IWAMD) focuses on the health and wellbeing benefits of group singing in a choir. In November 2019 a seminar on singing and health was held at UL’s IWAMD, bringing together several experts in the field relevant to singing and health, including: vocal pedagogy; traditional song; singing and migrant health; singing as an intervention for improving the health of individuals with COPD, older frail people living in the community, and people with dementia and chronic pain.

A team at the University is now looking to augment the already robust and varied evidence-base of singing, health and wellbeing with a research project which will be the first ever, comprehensive map of singing for health and wellbeing in Ireland and singing on social prescription. The project will explore the role of singing to reduce social isolation and support positive mental health. Social prescribing will also feature prominently.

Social prescribing is a framework in which primary care services refer patients with social, emotional or practical needs, to social prescribing coordinators. Coordinators, knowledgeable about local third sector organisations, link patients to appropriate community resources, like support groups, walking groups, or books for health. Arts on prescription, a branch of social prescription, focuses on prescriptions linked to arts activities such as knitting groups or choirs. Social prescribing is garnering much attention as an alternative and addition to pharmacological intervention. In Ireland, social prescribing is well developed in Donegal and starting to branch out to other counties, including Dublin, Wicklow and Waterford. There is also a regional branch of the Social Prescribing Network in Ireland, an organisation that endeavours to mainstream social prescribing.  

Dr Hilary Moss and Ms Liz Helitzer are now leading a research study which will map singing groups across Ireland that have a specific health and wellbeing mandate. They aim to catalogue every group in Ireland that exists, understand more about what is available and where, identify gaps in service, commonalities and challenges and determine whether service users are ever advised to avail of singing through social prescription. To date, research and practice in this area can be piecemeal. We know that there are many extremely, high quality singing groups and choirs across Ireland supporting people with enduring health conditions but many of these are working in silos, unsupported and isolated. We don’t know how many choirs there are, which clinical groups are most supported and whether the geographical gaps in provision exist. This research will be a publicly available document which we hope will encourage knowledge sharing, resource sharing and mutual learning to occur. It is time to stop reinventing the wheel and to promote equity of provision. It will also lead to creation of a network for skill sharing and inform policy regarding provision of singing for health initiatives across Ireland.

We invite you to join us:

If you are running a choir/singing group with a specific health/wellbeing focus please complete our survey: https://unioflimerick.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3eiPcwJ7ch3zaOV

Contact us to find out more about the project or share any knowledge you have in this area. We are particularly excited to talk to researchers working in the field of singing/music and/or social prescription, people who participate in such choirs or have engaged in social prescription as a service user and individuals involved in the social prescription referral process. We are keen to hear your experiences, whether positive or negative!

Contact Liz at: Elizabeth.helitzer@ul.ie

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