Occupational health education and health
literacy for musicians
Prevention is better than cure
The health of musicians is paramount both for the music profession and for individual musicians. There is a growing body of research on performance-related health problems and the prevention of occupational injuries. It focuses largely on health promotion and the delivery of health education for music performance students and professional musicians alike, aiming to empower musicians to take responsibility for their health within the constraints of a profession that can make considerable demands on their physical and psychological resources. This presupposes, however, that musicians possess an adequate level of health literacy, something that has only recently begun to be considered and explored systematically.
The process of developing and designing a tool specifically for measuring musicians’ health literacy in relation to music performance will be presented, alongside accounts of two contrasting approaches to health education for tertiary-level student musicians at universities in South Africa and Canada.
Paper 1 reports an exploration of music students’ experiences, perceptions and understanding of a 13-week occupational health course in South Africa, which incorporated the Body Mapping approach as its somatic component, and the students’ associated biopsychosocial health and musicianship. Paper 2 reports the process whereby an international team of researchers with expertise in performing arts healthcare, music performance, music psychology and music education used a consensus development approach to adapt the conceptual framework and health literacy matrix of the European Health Literacy Questionnaire (HLS-EU-HLQ47) to musician populations, and its outcome, the Musicians’ Health Literacy Questionnaire (MHL-Q19). Paper 3 reports an ongoing, longitudinal study carried out in Canada, which tests the effectiveness of delivering a blended learning health education course combining Sound Performers, an online curriculum developed in Australia, with guided face-to-face instruction.
Interview data from 12 participants in South Africa (Paper 1) were subjected to Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, from which four superordinate themes emerged: panorama, physical awareness, psychological awareness and musicianship. These were underscored by 20 subordinate themes of which the majority highlighted the interactions between the psychological, physical and musical (both technical and expressive) aspects of music making. This study both predated and informed the development of the MHL-Q19 (Paper 2), used in the Canadian research (Paper 3). Evaluative data were gathered from focus group interviews and questionnaires that were administered pre-, during and post- intervention. Preliminary findings were compared with those of the Australian evaluation of a pilot study in which Sound Performers was delivered online only. Early indications suggest that music students benefit more, in terms of their health awareness and literacy, from the blended learning approach; further results in relation to student retention and behavioral change, for example, will be presented at the symposium. Taken together, the three papers and the discussion that will follow their presentation contribute to knowledge that has the potential to prevent occupational injuries and enhance the health of those who make music, as students, teachers, amateurs and professionals, and benefit thereby the music profession and society more widely.