Use of the Didgeridoo to manage asthma in Indigenous adults, teenagers and children
Asthma is a chronic disease affecting an estimated 15% of Australian children and 11% of adults. The incidence of asthma is higher in Indigenous populations. The playing of musical instruments or singing has been shown to be effective in the management of asthma.
Two studies undertaken in 2007 and 2009 offered music lessons to Indigenous asthmatics in a junior school and a senior school, an Aboriginal Medical Service and a community centre. Males were taught the didgeridoo and females singing and clap sticks. Associated activities of painting and boomerang throwing were offered. At regular intervals participants were assessed for their asthma status.
At completion participants reported on the benefits of the study. Excellent retention occurred in Study 1 for adolescents and junior males but was poor for junior females and adults. Contributory factors to retention were parental and school support for minors and other health factors for adults. Respiratory function improved in males and both males and females reported increased well being.
In Study 2 retention of all participants was excellent. In addition there was increased engagement of both participants and their families with medical services.
In both studies awareness of asthma and compliance with asthma management plans increased. Social skills improved as did cultural awareness.
It has been concluded that the offering of music lessons is a culturally appropriate and enjoyable intervention to promote asthma, general health awareness and engagement with medical services.
Project Manager: Dr Rob Eley
Project Team: Professor Don Gorman, Dr Rob Eley, Ms Karen Brosnan, Mr John Williams-Mozley, Ms Jane Gately.
Funding Source: Asthma Foundation of Australia, Targeted Intervention Grant
Eley, R and Gorman D. 2008 Music therapy to manage asthma. Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal. 31 (1) 9-10.
Eley, R and Gorman D. 2010 Didgeridoo playing and singing to support asthma management in Aboriginal Australians. The Journal of Rural Health. Vol 26 (1) pp 100-104.
Eley R, D Gorman and J Gately, 2010 Didgeridoos, songs and boomerangs for asthma management. Health Promotion Journal of Australia 21:39-44
Eley, Robert and Norman, Michelle (2010) Music therapy to manage asthma symptoms in young Indigenous people in an urban setting. Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal , 34 (3). pp. 20-22. ISSN 1037-3403