Rovaniemi City Band is a professional four-piece, whose members are salaried by the City Council. They may be booked by any service, for example nurseries, schools, day-care centres, residencies and hospitals, in a system based on the idea that life and connection may be improved through music.
Recently on my Fellowship trip to Finland I met Hannu Raudaskoski, who is the Project Manager for Lapland Hospitals – and one quarter of Rovaniemi’s City Band, to learn more about music, the arts and healthcare. The photographs were provided by Hannu.
Music in Healthcare
Music has been used since ancient times to aid ritualistic practices, and can promote soothing, calming and bonding experiences. There is growing modern evidence that music in healthcare settings reduces stress and assists healing. That this has needed to be translated into clinical research might seem unnecessary to some; to many people, including myself, this seems manifest.
However, it is useful to identify the ‘biomarkers’ of these effects. Dr Daisy Fancourt’s research explores how music affects the body. She has found that music decreases levels of cortisol (our stress hormone), helping to regulate inflammatory responses to illness and disease. She has also explored the effects of music on maternal wellbeing. Another of Daisy’s studies has found that music helps premature babies gain weight on neonatal units, and the benefits of music to pre-terms has also been subject to a review.
The arts have been shown to be an effective and efficient means for communicating health information to large audiences. Jill Sonke, of University Florida, shared a great example of using music for public health messages at Bristol’s Culture, Health and Wellbeing conference in June. During the Ebola crisis in West Africa 2014 – 15, two hip-hop artists penned an overnight hit, ‘Ebola’s In Town’, which dramatically shifted public perception and led to a reduction in risky behaviours, ultimately stemming the spread of disease.
A recent Cochrane review examined the role of music in cancer care, which indicated that music interventions may have beneficial effects on anxiety, pain, fatigue and quality of life in people with cancer. Furthermore, music may have a small effect on heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure.
Other examples of music in healthcare settings includes:
– Singing for COPD (Chronic lung disease, used to be called Emphysema)
– Aiding rehabilitation following stroke
– Drumming workshops for people with depression
– Hip-hop songs used to communicate safe-sex messages to teenagers
As for the effects of music for people with dementia, there is a classic video. Watch this, also featuring Oliver Sacks who has written Musicophilia.
Following the publication earlier this year of the report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Arts Health and Wellbeing – Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing, there will be a Westminster Hall debate on the Effects of the Arts on Health. The debate will be on 11 October 2017. You can email your local MP to tell them about your work and encourage them to attend the debate.
On Tuesday 12th, I am presenting to an EU-members expert group on culture and social inclusion in Brussels; the arts in health are gaining increasing attention from policy-makers and politicians. Sing your song!
I would like to leave you with this: BB King’s performance (with Joan Baez, too) for prisoners in New York City’s Sing Sing Prison.