Published on: 11th June 2019

SCHOOL CHILDREN living with asthma in Salford are benefiting from a programme which uses singing to improve breathing.

BreathStars, the lung health programme run by Unlimited Potential and nurse entrepreneur Heather Henry, is trialling whether singing using special breathing techniques can improve asthma in young people, a first of its kind in the city.

After receiving money from NHS Salford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) via Salford CVS and The Big Lottery Fund, the BreathStars programme first tested singing and breathing methods with a number of families in Little Hulton and is now being delivered at St. Paul’s Peel C. of E. Primary School. BreathStars is also working with organisations in Morecambe and Barrow-in-Furness.

Dr. Tom Tasker, Chair of Salford CCG, said: “Asthma affects up to 5% of children, with a quarter of them experiencing some restriction of physical activity. Whilst the mainstay of their treatment will be avoidance of any particular triggers and compliance with their inhalers, it’s always potentially beneficial to look at other ways of trying to support the management of their asthma.

“The innovation fund allows us to test new ideas like this and I will be very interested to see the results of the programme.”

Heather and a professional music therapist have designed the programme that includes games and stories as well as singing to help the children and their parents improve their asthma knowledge in fun and memorable ways.

The trial of the programme will also highlight whether it can be delivered by other schools instead of more costly delivery by professionals, so that more children with asthma can benefit from the singing techniques.

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Chris Dabbs, Chief Executive of Unlimited Potential, said: “Asthma can have a significant effect on children and their families. Evidence shows that singing is a fun and effective way for better breathing in adults. We are hopeful that it will have a similar effect in children.”

The success of the programme is being measured by asthma control using the Asthma Control Test, a valid and reliable tool. BreathStars also measures the children’s confidence and physical activity which can also improve asthma.

Teachers at the school, which has more than the average numbers of pupils with asthma, have received singing for lung health and asthma training and all pupils at the school are joining in with the choir so that the children with asthma benefit.

Joanne Barker, Head Teacher at St Pauls Peel C. of E. Primary School, said:

St. Paul’s Peel C.E. Primary School is pleased to be playing a vital role in this important initiative; helping pupils, staff and parents to develop correct breathing techniques to enhance lung capacity and also develop everyone’s knowledge and understanding of asthma. 

“The choir, led by Miss Herrera, consists of pupils of different age groups from school and a member of staff, Mrs Critchley.  The children’s confidence, self-esteem and breath control has improved.”