How world's oldest wind instrument is altering mens' health

LEARNING to play the didgeridoo takes practice.

But it is helping change the life of students across West Moreton because playing the traditional Aboriginal instrument improves lung health.

Dean Smith, an Advanced Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker at West Moreton Health, showcased the Didgeridoo Lung Health Program during National Closing the Gap Day events.

Mr Smith teaches school students across the region to play the didgeridoo as part of his role helping the community achieve better health.

Mr Smith said the program was about more than learning to play an instrument.

He said the program taught students leadership, respect for themselves and others, and importantly, how to take care of their health. Reflecting custom, the program is designed for boys and men.

"We are using the didgeridoo to help young boys and men improve their lung health either because of asthma or the damages from smoking.

"We use a very small percentage of our lung capacity on a daily basis - by learning the didgeridoo we are learning to use more of our lungs.

"The breathing technique needed to play the didgeridoo helps strengthen lung capacity and is proven to have reduced the effects of sleep apnea and asthma.''

 

Dean Smith, an Advanced Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker at West Moreton Health, showcased the Didgeridoo Lung Health Program during National Closing the Gap Day events with West Moreton Health staff member Valentine Brown.
Dean Smith, an Advanced Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker at West Moreton Health, showcased the Didgeridoo Lung Health Program during National Closing the Gap Day events with West Moreton Health staff member Valentine Brown. Marnie Ludgate

 

Last year Mr Smith took the program to 90 students in nine schools in the West Moreton region, from Gatton to Springfield.

"We went to one primary school where five boys took part in the program.

Of those five boys, four of them had asthma.

"A mother said her son did not have an asthma attack during winter last year while he was doing the program."

She said normally he would have been in and out of hospital. She was really happy and said he would be practising every day because she believed it was the didgeridoo that had made all the difference to his lung health.''

The didgeridoo is one of the world's oldest wind instruments.

"Making a noise with a didgeridoo is fine, you use your lips to vibrate together, but learning the circular breathing technique you need to sustain the noise for two minutes or more is really challenging.

"You need to practice every single day.''

He said lung capacity tests showed the program had led to a 20 per cent improvement in lung health over 10 weeks.

Students also showed improvements in behaviour and school attendance.



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