OF THE NATION
IT'S TIME FOR A CHANGE
Let's acknowledge that our current approaches to health aren't working.
It's time to use all the science at our disposal and adopt a new approach to health that goes beyond the ideas tried in the past. They have not succeeded in motivating the public to move more.
The definition of (and the routes to) good health are much broader and music has a valuable role to play.
The information below is intended to encourage a change in mindset and a new era in health promotion and participation. An era where the contribution that music can make to health is not just recognised, but celebrated. An era where the hit song catalogue that the nation knows and loves is a standard part of every health professional's toolkit.
There has been growing support within the UK music industry in the past 2 years regarding music licences for health. We need to make it easier for health and fitness professionals to buy licences to use the music that is most likely to engage the nation - the HITS! Let's continue this progress and accelerate the conversations. New music licences for health would nurture an important revenue stream for the music industry, send a clear message regarding the health value of music, and help improve the health of the nation. So if we ever have to face a virus such as Covid-19 again we are able to deal with it with increased health resilience.
If you're in a rush this video covers the main points!
THE 5-STEP MANIFESTO
1. ACKNOWLEDGE THE CURRENT SITUATION
We have an ageing population whose life expectancy is significantly greater than their healthy life expectancy. On average men and women in the UK are being diagnosed with their first significant health condition in their mid 50s (late 40s in poorer areas) and this can mark the beginning of decades of chronic illness and declining health.
This figure was featured in the Health of the Nation report published by the APPG for Longevity in February 2020. The report drew attention to the dangers of the current situation and encouraged UK government to focus on a plan that would add 5 years to healthy life expectancy by 2030. These vulnerabilities caused by underlying health conditions were suddenly exposed dramatically just a few weeks later when Covid-19 struck.
The report also identified the important role that employers can play due to the significant amount of waking hours that the working population spends in their presence. The 'Music Manifesto for the Health of the Nation' outlined on this website has been published on June 23rd to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the BBC's 'Music While You Work' programme and draw attention to the key impact that employers in particular can have on the nation's health through the steps outlined below.
The standard diet and exercise focused approaches used to try and encourage healthier lifestyles have failed over several decades to sufficiently engage the population and produce a healthy nation. We need to urgently try new ideas. Read on to discover why music can help.
2. RECOGNISE THE SCIENCE & AVAILABLE EVIDENCE
In November 2019 the World Health Organisation published an extensive review of research and recommended that the significant value that music can deliver to health and wellbeing should be better recognised and harnessed.
In February 2020 a review of research (dating back to 1911) examining the effects of music on sport and exercise showed the potential health benefits it can deliver to both professional athletes and the general public.
In July 2019 a research study demonstrated that the use of music in everyday life has the potential to enhance health and wellbeing in both clinical populations and healthy individuals. This is yet another published study in a vast and continually growing body of music neuroscience and psychology research demonstrating: music's potential to engage people and influence mood/emotion/decisions, drive neurogenesis in the hippocampus (the development of new brain cells); assist in the management of pain; improve focus and attention (especially in open plan offices where distractions are constant), manage mental health and much more. Research also shows that when we listen to (or make) music we know and love* these health effects are even greater (*commercial hits for the majority of the population, especially songs from our youth).
Generations of neuroscientists agree that human behaviour is driven by decisions made by the brain based on the environmental information it receives via the senses. So it seems sensible to also use the ears when trying to persuade the general population to adopt healthier lifestyles. Especially as we know the auditory cortex is also hard wired to the emotional regions of the brain and can have fast impact. History shows that modern humans tend to choose to spend their valuable spare time (and money) on things they love doing. So it seems sensible to adopt an approach that feeds compelling environmental information to the brain through all the available sensory channels, including the ears.
The APPG for Arts, Health & Wellbeing (since 2014), NHS Long Term Plan (published Jan 2019) and the new National Academy for Social Prescribing (announced by UK government Oct 2019) all highlight the value of music in health and wellbeing . This is a good step forward in terms of expanding the standard definition of 'health'
In December 2019 the findings of the Music in Society inquiry conducted at the House of Lords were presented as a briefing paper at the Nordoff Robbins' Social Value of Music Conference. It identified a number of barriers that were compromising the music ecosystem, plus opportunities to better harness the power of music. It called for a range of actions to help extract the full value of music, such as the creation of a new blanket music licence for the NHS.
These examples above are just a snapshot of the existing work demonstrating the powerful effects of music. Music engages humans and we know that is has done for tens of thousands of years. The effects are hard wired in our brains. There isn't a community in the world that doesn't have music embedded in its culture. It's hugely powerful. It leapt to the forefront as soon as lockdown was enforced. People turned to music on their balconies and through the internet to stay connected with their friends and families and to help mentally survive this crisis . Music cannot be quarantined. Our ability to enjoy and participate in music is an important and unique part of being human. So let's act on this research base and swiftly take some positive steps forward.
3. IDENTIFY THE CURRENT BARRIERS
Considering the fact that music we love amplifies the effects on the brain - and therefore also our body (see section 2 above), the current inability of health and music professionals to easily, legally and affordably buy and use commercial music for health services compromises the effectiveness of engaging the population in health activities. Popular music is the most dominant preferred genre of the population. Therefore, it is the commercial music catalogue of the past 60 years that has the most potential value in terms of successfully engaging the public to move more and improving health. Restricting access to this recorded repertoire of hit songs is a barrier to driving higher engagement in health activities.
There is a lack of awareness amongst the general public, employers and local authorities regarding the powerful potential of music to enhance health
There is a lack of communication and collaboration between the music industry and the sports/exercise/health/wellness sectors
4. TAKE INDUSTRY ACTION
(Music, health, sports, wellness sectors)
Expand the recognised definition of health and wellness to include music as standard practice
Make it easier for health/fitness/wellness/music professionals to access and use commercial music in their health and wellbeing work (in the physical world and online) by (i) creating a new music licence they can buy to use hit songs in their live online classes, and (ii) by creating a new annual blanket music licence that covers all NHS facilities and makes it simple for NHS staff to use music wherever and whenever they feel it can add value to patient and staff wellbeing. Empower these key actors with knowledge and legal access to music so they can facilitate health impact. Update licensing partnerships with social media platforms so these sessions can also be legally and easily promoted and delivered to the population online.
Make it easier for workplaces (including schools) to embed music and sound as standard practice and create an opportunity for employers to pay to add "virtual delivery" of office choir sessions and music tuition etc to their existing workplace music licence. This will enable them to continue to push music in their wellness activities for remote workers as well as in-office.
Launch a public and employer facing "Health Rocks" style campaign to increase awareness regarding the myriad of ways in which music and sound can improve health at all ages. Create a music themed version of the '5 Ways To Wellbeing'
UK Music - lead a 'Music 4 Health Task Force' to drive forward the 4 recommendations above and create a strong marriage between the music industry and the sports/exercise/wellness sectors to spawn a healthier nation
5. HELP OTHERS TAKE ACTION TO DRIVE IMPACT ACROSS SOCIETY
Help people understand why and how music can improve their health and give them access to plenty of engaging ways to use it. For example, through encouraging subscriptions to streaming music services and through empowering musicians and health professionals to offer a compelling range of live streamed classes delivered into homes through platforms such as Zoom.
(including schools - workplaces for students and teachers)
Help employers understand how and why music can increase employee engagement with their wellness programme and make it as easy as possible to buy licenses to offer an extensive range of music based interventions such as singing, instrument tuition, music/sound for focus, socialising etc. Help headteachers understand how to embed music playlists into the daily routine and built environment to create less stressful and more pro-social atmospheres conducive to good mental health and better working conditions.
In High Streets:
Team up local fitness, sports and health professionals with local musicians and grassroots music venues to deliver new music driven wellness activities and programmes. Encourage local choirs to rehearse in public (outdoors or in venues) rather than behind closed doors to help drive engagement. Encourage local authorities to use music to animate public spaces through live performances (e.g. busking programmes, DJs, streamed playlists, "Social Dis-Dancing") to bring people together socially on a weekly/daily basis.
Embed standard procedures to silence the music for a period when a customer requests it due to auditory-stimulated health conditions. Involve employees in the curation and delivery of a music programme - don't just stream it "at them" from an anonymous third party supplier.
This manifesto is not an official document. It's a set of suggested steps presented by Dr Julia Jones aka Dr Rock
You can read about Julia's work at the link below
For media enquiries please contact Dominic Mohan here
Let's work together to produce a healthier, more resilient nation and ensure that we never again fall victim to such catastrophic pandemics. The information outlined above has the potential to reduce future health costs, drive growth in the music and wellness sectors, encourage the public to move more, and prevent the levels of unnecessary deaths witnessed during the Covid-19 pandemic. At the very least it's worth trying new approaches such as these to see if they kickstart more successful outcomes than previous attempts.