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Healthy Culture Needs Healthy Artists, says new society

from left to right: Dr. Steven Miller, Dr. Bronwen Ackermann, Dr. Paul Duff, Dr. John Hadok, Dr. Mark Seton, Dr. Jonathan Levesey, Ms. Diana Devitt-Dawson, Dr. Peter Bragge, Dr. Debra Shirley, Ms. Jan Cullis, Dr. Dwight Dowda

An exciting new health organization has been launched to promote better health management for performing artists.

The Australian Society for Performing Arts Healthcare (ASPAH) (www.aspah.org.au) brings together health professionals, educators and performing artists to address the healthcare needs of Australian performing artists. Their aim is to establish a culture of lifelong preventative healthcare and safety practices in the performing arts.

Its inaugural president, Dr. Bronwen Ackermann, believes that this is a desperately needed initiative in the performing arts sector. "There are studies which suggest that acute and chronic injury rates for professional dancers run at over 50%." she said. "Other studies have suggested similar injury rates in professional musicians and even amongst dance and music students.”1-3,4,5

Dr Ackermann went on to say, "A 50% injury rate for a professional sports team would be front page news in Australia. Professional athletes have teams of health workers, and even a specialist national institute, which recognise the importance of good health in optimising performance. This is not true for performing artists.We need to bring about a cultural change in the performing arts so that health concerns are not held in complete disregard because ‘the show must go on!"

The Australian Society for Performing Arts Health Care was formed in Sydney on the 25th of November 2006. Eleven health and performing arts professionals met to discuss their shared vision for the future of healthcare for performing artists in Australia. The meeting was triggered by an attempt to hold a performing arts medicine symposium in Mackay, Queensland in August 2006, as part of the Regional Arts Conference "Pacific Edge." The symposium didn’t eventuate, but the enthusiasm and momentum from that effort continued, and stimulated the formation of ASPAH. In the wake of the Mackay Symposium, one of its co-conveners and most of the keynote speakers, recognising the need for a coordinating body to support healthcare for the performing arts, decided to keep moving forward. They were inspired by a number of international bodies, in particular the Performing Arts Medicine Association based in the USA, and became determined to establish a uniquely Australian organisation.

"All performers, young and old, amateur and professional, have unique healthcare needs,” said Dr. Ackermann. "Young dancers with stress fractures, musicians with hand injuries, or actors with performance anxiety issues have problems which are often not answered by standard models of health care.We believe that if Australia values its rich culture of performing arts then it must start looking after its performing artists - ASPAH plans to make this happen," said Dr Ackermann.

All enquiries to Dr Bronwen Ackermann at B.Ackermann@usyd.edu.au


  1. Geeves, T; SAFE DANCE I. Published by Ausdance, 1990
  2. Bejjani, F. J., Kaye, G. M., and Benham, M. 1996. Musculoskeletal and neuromuscular conditions of instrumental musicians. Arch. Phys. Med. Rehab. 77: 406–413.
  3. Christine Zaza, PhD; Playing-related musculoskeletal disorders in musicians: a systematic review of incidence and prevalence CMAJ • APR. 21, 1998; 158 (8) 1019-1025
  4. Geeves, T; SAFE DANCE II – A study of pre-professional dance training in Australia, Published by Ausdance, 1997.
  5. Fry HJH, Rowley GL. Music related upper limb pain in schoolchildren. Ann Rheum Dis 1989;48:998-1002.