Dancing is popular both for exercise as well as a social activity

by Nadeem Badshah

A DANCE a day to a Bollywood song keeps the doctor away.

This is the result of a pilot scheme where a jig to Indian film hits are being prescribed on the NHS which has seen GPs’ workloads reduced.

The project has seen people sent to dance classes to address non-medical issues such as loneliness.

Thirty-seven GPs practices in Croydon, south London, have joined the scheme – known as community prescribing – since last year which also includes boxing lessons, gardening
and playing bingo. And medics have hailed the scheme and have called for belly dancing and kathak moves to be rolled out nationally and in schools.

In the year to July 2018, there was a 20 per cent reduction in hospital outpatient referrals and a four per cent fall in emergency hospital admissions, according to the Parchmore Medical Centre in Thornton Heath, which has spent £50,000 on prescribing 30,000 social sessions.

Dr Mahendra Patel, senior member of the South Asian Health Foundation, told Eastern Eye: “The more physical activity we do, the more we make our mental health better.

“Something targeted like Bollywood dancing, which is growing in popularity not just among the south Asian population, but in western cultures, it is making physical engagement fun.

“So it’s win win. It encourages younger people also to get involved, they see it as something of therapeutic value.

“With the growing diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk higher than before, this scheme will help.”

Dr Patel added: “It would work across the country where there is a risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, particularly in areas with large BME populations who are more prone to these diseases.

“Why can’t schools take it up? Planting that seed early to reduce the predicted risk of diseases.”

NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens has visited the project in Croydon. Health chiefs are assessing the cost and impact of rolling it out to other areas. The scheme is being partly funded with almost £800,000 of NHS money and also relies on community
volunteers to keep it going.

Dr Kailash Chand OBE, a GP and honorary vice-president of the British Medical Association, has also praised the scheme. He told Eastern Eye: “Dancing is a well-rounded way to stay in shape, both physically and mentally.

“A good gym workout may be good for the body, but it can be a lonely experience,
if not a tedious one.

“Dancing, on the other hand, is good for the cardiovascular system. It can also be an extremely rewarding and fulfilling social and human experience. I never miss an opportunity to recommend dancing to my patients as a form of attaining or improving physical and mental fitness, whether the patient is a child or an elderly individual.

“So, let’s get everyone – children, adults and old people – moving and improve the nation’s health and happiness at no cost.”

Dr Agnelo Fernandes, who leads the Parchmore centre in Croydon, said the initiative has led to fewer people booking doctors’ appointments for nonmedical issues.

Dr Fernandes said: “People who were previously isolated are getting out of their houses. It has provided an opportunity to meet people and do other things. Some of the people I
used to see, I only see now in the films they make [about the activities they are involved in].”