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Michael and Mary Baker, O'Callaghan's Mills, Dr Daniele Volpe and Mairead Casey, Longford and Romano Baratella and Stefania Sossella, Italy, set dancing in Pepper's Bar, Feakle. Photograph by Arthur Ellis

Parkinsons health conference in Feakle commended

THE Parkinson’s Health Conference, which took place in Feakle this summer, has received a commendation at the Irish Medical Times Irish Healthcare Awards. The conference was announced as a commended award recipient at a ceremony held in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin on Thursday last.

The conference, which preceded the annual Feakle Festival of Traditional Music, was hugely successful this summer and saw a huge influx of people into the East Clare village eager to learn more about Parkinson’s and the beneficial effects that set dancing has on sufferers of the disease.

Speaking about the win, Breda Collins, conference manager said, “There were nine shortlisted in our category and we got a commendation for the best patient education project (non-pharmaceutical). The judging panel gave it to us for focusing on improving patient care innovation and collaboration. We got a lovely certificate in a frame.

“Crumlin got the award in our category. They did a project for children with cancer and there was one other commendation in the category.”

Italian neurologist Dr Daniele Volpe had conducted the research into the beneficial effects of set dancing on Parkinson’s patients. His study, which exposed Parkinson’s patients to six months of Irish set dancing as a form of therapy, found that they improved significantly in three key areas.

The findings revealed significant improvements in the patients’ mobility, balance and quality of life, compared with the other participants in the study who were given conventional physiotherapy for the same period.

As training workshops were taking place in Feakle this week, Dr Volpe was in Ireland and available to attend the awards ceremony, as was University of Limerick lecturer Dr Amanda Clifford, who has also been involved in the research.

“It was very exciting. There was a huge buzz about it because some categories had one commendation and some categories didn’t have any, they just had the award.

“The commendations were given to projects they wanted to acknowledge. We were sitting next to a group who had nine entries but only one shortlisted, so we were delighted that the one we entered was shortlisted.

“It is a huge honour that Daniele, the deputy mayor of Bondino and Amanda Clifford and our organising committee were with us, so there were nine of us. They are really honoured as well. It is a huge thing to have Parkinson’s acknowledged and it was the only Parkinson’s project to receive anything. They were delighted that ours was because it meant it was highlighted and promoted,” Ms Collins continued.

Meanwhile, the first intensive set-dancing training weekend for set-dancing teachers and therapists was held in Feakle on Friday and Saturday, offering demonstrations to participants, as well as guidelines for the specific type of set dancing that is beneficial to PD sufferers.

Participants came from all over Ireland to hear from leading experts and share experiences on set dancing for people with Parkinson’s Disease. The event included informative lectures, which were followed by practical workshops.

Representatives from The Parkinson’s Association of Ireland and Move 4Parkinsons also took part in the course. Warm-up exercises were practised and suitable techniques for teaching Irish set-dancing steps and figures of sets were explored. Participant discussions were very informative and encouraged shared learning opportunities.

As a result of the conference, collaborative guidelines for teaching set dancing to people, who have Parkinson’s Disease, were devised by Dr Volpe, the University of Limerick and the Irish groups representing people who have PD.

The training event was described by Dr Volpe as a first, as it catered to therapists and dance teachers and offered them relevant training to assist PD sufferers.

Interest in the work that has been done in Feakle continues to grow and the training events were filmed for American television by a production company working on a documentary on Parkinson’s Disease.

Ms Collins explained this came about following the World Parkinson’s Conference, which was held in Montreal this year, where members of this production team met with Dr Volpe and other representatives from Parkinson’s groups in Ireland.

“They told them we were having this training course and told them to come to Ireland,” she said.

“We had Orla Ní Bhriain of the Irish Dance Academy and she was asked to do a lecture in Belfast about Parkinson’s and set dancing and the interest has just soared. Everyone wants a piece of it,” Ms Collins said.

The course included an open céilí on Friday night at Pepper’s Marquee.

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