NORTH EAST DANCE & HEALTH PROJECT: An evaluation of a creative dance programme in preschool children: findings from a 10 week pilot controlled trial examining physical activity and mental well being outcomes

Project: Research

Description

BACKGROUND
Increasing physical activity is a public health priority, given the associated decreased risk of developing a number of chronic conditions (such as diabetes, some cancers, cardiovascular disease, mental ill health), in addition to improving weight management [1]. It has been hypothesised that physical inactivity alongside an unhealthy dietary intake has contributed to the rapid elevation of both child and adult obesity, prevalence of which in the North East is amongst the highest in England [2]. Physical activity is therefore a prominent component
of the North East’s public health strategy: ‘Better Health, Fairer Health’, which outlines a clear vision for ‘the North East population to be the most physically active in the country, both in its activities of daily living and in its recreational choices’ [3].

Dance provides an engaging, non-competitive form of physical, social and creative activity that is accessible to all ages, abilities and backgrounds, and offers the potential to promote good health and wellbeing. The NICE (2006) obesity guidance [4] states that the pre-school years are a key time for shaping attitudes and behaviours. Evidence from this document suggests that dance may provide a novel approach to engaging young people, particularly girls, in physical activity. These recommendations are also supported by the recent ‘Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives – one year on report’ [5] which pledges to ‘get young people to take up and maintain participation in dance’ and the new physical activity framework ‘Be Active, Be Healthy’ which pledges to build on the benefits of dance and health for groups who may favour this activity [6]. However, despite such strong policy drivers, there remains a significant lack of evidence to demonstrate the physical and psychological benefits of dance, particularly within pre-school children.

This programme was developed to enrich the evidence base around the potential benefits of dance to health and wellbeing. A practical and engaging family-orientated, community-based dance programme in preschool children was developed to support: A) the NICE recommendations for: obesity [4], Physical Activity for Children and young people [7], and behaviour change [8]; and B) Public Service Agreements 12 [9]: Improve the health and well-being of children and young people and 21 [10]: Build more cohesive, empowered and
active communities.

The programme was created by Janine Ogilvie and developed in consultation with an advisory group, representing members from North East Children and Learners, Children’s Centres, Durham University, Teesside University, Play England, Department for Culture Media and Sport, Together for Children, Public Health North East and North East Public Health Observatory.

This report is supported by a supplementary: ‘I Love Mondays’ (available on request from Dance City: Newcastle) containing a photographic and anecdotal documentary of the intervention dance sessions.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date1/01/0831/07/09