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Social Impact Lab 2022: Water dancing helps people with multiple disabilities

Lars-Olov Lundqvist, André Frank and Marie Matérne.

Water dancing can improve the physical and mental health of people with multiple disabilities. André Frank (centre) is developing the method with Lars-Olov Lundqvist and Marie Matérne.

André Frank is a licensed physical therapist and has been working with rehabilitation at Region Örebro County since 1994. In recent years, he has been part of a research team evaluating the effects of a new intervention method called SWAN (structured water dance intervention). The target group is people with multiple disabilities, a relatively small group requiring extensive support in all everyday activities. The idea is to provide them access to physical movement and social interaction through dance, thus promoting their physical and mental health. For this Social Impact Lab project, André Frank is collaborating with Lars-Olov Lundqvist and Marie Matérne; Lundqvist is research supervisor at University Health Care Research Center.

Social Impact Lab

André Frank is a licensed physiotherapist with a bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy. He is clinically active in rehabilitation at Region Örebro County and has long experience treating people with multiple disabilities and hydrotherapy.

He is researching a new pool-based intervention and its effects on people with multiple disabilities. In addition, he has co-authored several papers and published articles on the SWAN project.

What social challenge are you looking to realise your idea?

"To improve living conditions for people with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities (PIMD), particularly to enable their participation in adapted health-promoting activities. In addition, to help other groups with various forms of disability who may also benefit from SWAN (structured water dance intervention). People with multiple disabilities have limited access to physical activities. Not being able to speak for themselves, they risk not being considered when developing health promotion interventions and activities."

Tell us about your idea!

"My experience of hydrotherapy, also known as water therapy, and an activity called floor dance, have formed the basis for this new intervention, SWAN, initiated by a colleague and myself. The idea was picked up by Marie Matérne, a business developer at Region Örebro County. This led to the research project evaluating the intervention scientifically through a multi-centre randomised crossover study. Lars-Olov Lundqvist is responsible for the project. Together with Marie, Lars-Olov and Anna Duberg, the research project was started in 2017. The aim is to assess the idea of SWAN with people with multiple disabilities and investigate the effects on health outcomes such as stress, well-being, and social interaction in addition to more traditional physiotherapeutic assessments like spasticity and pain. During the intervention, various data have been collected in the form of subjective and objective measures. SWAN is a health-promoting method for the target group that offers participants the joy of physical movement and social interaction."

How can your idea benefit society?

"Since SWAN has indicated positive effects for participants, I hope to develop the method further and implement it in several rehabilitation centres around Sweden. I believe that collaboration with other actors in society is an important factor in finding strategies for implementation also outside of healthcare. This could allow SWAN to benefit and contribute to both healthcare and preventive care over the long term. People with multiple disabilities suffer from several health problems and require a lot of healthcare. If SWAN can help them maintain health and function, then it is valuable on multiple levels and could make healthcare resources available for other interventions."

Why did you apply to the Social Impact Lab?

"On the recommendation by the research team, I saw the opportunity to invest time in developing SWAN in an innovative environment. Along with good timing, we have now analysed parts of the data from the intervention and have had time to publish several research articles."

What is the benefit of being part of the Social Impact Lab?

"To gain new approaches to the SWAN project and get support in developing and implementing the method."

Do you want to know more? Contact André Frank.

Read more about the Social Impact Lab here.