60. Belconnen Arts Centre

60. Belconnen Arts Centre

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Belconnen Arts Centre – Dance for Wellbeing

The Belconnen Arts Centre with supporting investment from ACT Health has been presenting a Dance for Wellbeing program both at Belconnen Arts Centre and Tuggeranong Arts Centre since 2017 with the current funding concluding in late 2019. The program engages professional dance practitioners to devise and deliver specifically devised dance programs for people living with Parkinson’s disease, dementia and other chronic health conditions.

We have learnt that these conditions can progress over many years, and account for a large secondary disease burden caused by issues including falls, physical decline, poor diet and social isolation. Partaking in Dance for Wellbeing has been seeing a reduction of these secondary effects in the participants through their participation in this targeted intervention.

In the ACT, these conditions have well-organised community based support networks. We are actively working with Parkinson’s ACT, Dementia Australia and the MS Society to engage participants in early stages of progression. The yearly disease burden in direct care costs from Parkinson’s disease, dementia and MS in the ACT is approximately $113 million.

It is increasingly understood that dance as a preventative and proactive health initiative is effective, and efficient. While Parkinson’s, dementia and other chronic conditions are distinct in their impacts on health, for each condition there is strong evidence that dance, compared with other forms of physical activity such as cardio exercise, is among the most effective activities in maintenance or recovery of motor function, and prevention of cognitive decline.

The effectiveness of dance in improving health outcomes for people diagnosed with each of the targeted conditions is unambiguous and internationally established. The evidence base shows that dance activity has immediate and prolonged impact on a reduced requirement for subsequent medical intervention.

Dance is unique in its capacity to address health areas including: physical activity and fall prevention, through measures of physical strength, control and independence; and social isolation, through increased emotional resilience and breadth of social and support networks.

Our approach is distinctive as it is driven through the development of the individuals creative dance practice, not through traditional medical interventions. Since the commencement of Dance for Wellbeing in 2017, we have witnessed a steady 50% growth in attendance levels. There is also a noticeable increase in the demand for the delivery of the program throughout Canberra, particularly in situ within residential care and other community facilities.

We have not been able to meet this new demand with existing resources. The cost of delivery is prohibitive for participants in a user pays model without subsidised investment, and our current levels of funding does not enable us to expand beyond the current levels of delivery.

ACT Health funding for this program ends in October 2019. Despite the successful outcomes to all involved, unfortunately the grant was a one off without opportunity for reapplication. We have explored alternative funding programs and found current funding opportunities are primarily focused on investing in new programs making it prohibitive to apply to enable ongoing programs.

Interest in Dance for Wellbeing is being generated in other areas of the community. Most recently with interest being expressed from the University of Canberra to use Dance for Wellbeing as a research study exploring the impacts of participation on participant’s health. We believe the findings will support the necessity to sustain and build the Dance for Wellbeing suite of delivery models to support the healthy aging of the community.

Due the culmination of funding to this program due in 2019, we are faced with the Dance for Wellbeing program being dramatically reduced or potentially be required to cease.

To deliver the program at its current level it requires an annual investment of $70,000. To grow our capacity to deliver the program to additional locations inclusive of residential care and other appropriate community facilities as being requested, we will need a further $70,000 per annum.

We ask the ACT government to commit what is a relatively small annual investment of at least $70,000 to ensure the ongoing delivery of the Dance for Wellbeing at the current level. To increase participation and access to the program by delivering in a range of additional locations around Canberra, this requires an annual investment of $140,000, which we are confident will extend the impact of the program and lead to a consequent saving to the ACT Health system through improved health outcomes.

To enable the ongoing investment for the community who live with Parkinson’s, dementia or other chronic conditions would be transformative. Dance for Wellbeing enables those who currently participate to maintain their quality of live to its fullest. With an increase to the investment, and with longer term sustainable support, we can provide an important intervention to more people, increasing the benefits experienced through the program and in turn improve the quality of life and meet some of the needs for this part of the community.