A singing workshop for patients with Parkinson's disease aims to improve voice and speech disorders.

Speech pathology's 'sound idea' wins inaugural Arts Pitch

March 2018

A singing workshop for patients with Parkinson's disease aims to improve voice and speech disorders.

A singing workshop for patients with Parkinson's disease aims to improve voice and speech disorders.

Patients with Parkinson’s disease will benefit from a new weekly singing group after a sound idea from speech pathology took out the inaugural Arts Pitch.

The Arts Pitch is an innovation challenge encouraging Sydney Local Health District staff, in partnership with patients and members of The Arts community, to submit ideas for implementing new art programs that can positively impact the delivery of our healthcare services.

Applications across all arts forms such as visual and digital arts, performing arts, literacy arts and the built environment were encouraged as part of the District’s March Arts festival. A total of 14 applications were received, with five chosen to present their idea to a four-judge panel.

Up to 9 in 10 people with Parkinson’s disease have a speech or voice disorder, typically characterised by slurred speech and a quieter voice. Existing pharmacological and surgical treatments are ineffective at addressing these impairments.

The RPA Speech Pathology department presented research showing the benefits of singing in improving voice and speech symptoms in Parkinson’s patients – in particular, breathing exercises and vocal warm-ups.

Singing groups have also been shown to diminish isolation and create opportunities for socialisation and support-network formation.

Led by speech pathologist Jessica Lamond in conjunction with Arterie @ RPA head Amanda Solomon and the UltraSounds, a group of clinician-musicians, the applicants proposed a weekly singing workshop designed and run by a speech pathologist and a music therapist.

“Our idea is the ultimate expression of art and health, incorporating evidence based therapy techniques with the power of music and singing,” Ms Lamond said.

The success of the program will be measured by pre and post voice assessment data, such as the Voice Handicap Index, pitch range and vocal loudness in conversation.

The judging panel of Chief Executive Dr Teresa Anderson, Sydney Research Executive Director Adjunct Professor Vicky Taylor, Dr Mark Nelson, the vice-president of the Art Gallery of NSW Board of Trustees and award-winning artist  Noel McKenna, awarded the group $20,800. The money will go towards the employment of a speech pathologist, music therapist, musicians and instruments.

The Institute of Academic Surgery was awarded $5700 to run a pilot program for trainees in which difficult conversations with patients and families are simulated with professional actors.
The panel gave $1000 to the anaesthetic department at Canterbury Hospital to purchase a projector to transform stark white walls of the anaesthetic bays, where children are prepared for surgery. Images such as outer space and under the ocean will be used to turn the often scary pre-operative process into an exciting adventure.

The Arts Pitch was emceed by popular comedian Jean Kittson and attended by hundreds of people interested in how patient and family experience can be enhanced by integrating The Arts into healthcare.
“We’re very passionate in Sydney Local Health District about the powerful contribution that art, in all its many forms, can make to the health and wellbeing of the patients and to our community,” Dr Anderson said.

To see photos and video of The Arts Pitch, see www.slhd.nsw.gov.au/media/

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Page Last Updated: 19 April, 2018