Hallam project Life-Saving Lullabies wins award for social impact

23rd September 2020

A project which harnesses the power of song to spread vital healthcare messages among African women has been recognised for its social impact.

The Life-Saving Lullabies project is led by Sheffield Hallam design expert Professor David Swann in collaboration with first-aid charity St John Zambia and Dr James Reid and Professor Barry Doyle from the University of Huddersfield.

It works by supporting St John volunteers based in Chunga and Kayosha to create lullabies in their local languages that they then perform to women as part of their outreach work in the community and to those who visit maternity clinics.

The songs are a memorable way to convey important information about birth and childcare, but the onset of coronavirus means that songs are now being created that relay the importance of other precautions, such as social distancing.

The project was initially a response to the public health emergency declared in Zambia in May 2019 regarding the amount of maternal and prenatal deaths in the country where 10-15 women per week lose their lives due to preventable causes.

With more than a quarter of adolescent girls already mothers or pregnant with their first child, the key aim of the project was to help these young people acquire essential knowledge and caring behaviours so that they can have a greater awareness of potential danger signs during pregnancy.

The project has now been recognised by the Good Design Awards 2020 in the Best in Class for Social Impact.

The Good Design Awards, managed by Good Design Australia, promote the importance of design to business, industry, government and the general public and the critical role it plays in creating a better, safer and more prosperous world.

Professor David Swann said: “Across the world, mothers have sung sentimental and traditional folk lullabies to their babies for over four millennia with many transcending the generations as oral tradition.

“Until now, the potential for extending the purpose of lullaby lyrics as a tool for delivering essential knowledge, survival skills and advice has been overlooked.”

The Good Design judging panel said: “This is a really creative and well-designed solution which shows the bringing together of two things that don’t normally go hand in hand (health information and singing lullabies), to produce a positive social and health outcome.

“The simplicity and very human nature of this solution to a deeply embedded cultural challenge is really inspiring.”

The Life-Saving Lullabies project has earned major funding from Britain’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) worth £129,795.

It is focussed on Zambia, but the Life-Saving Lullabies team hopes that this zero-cost service intervention will be adopted by St John organisations in Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe and others to create awareness of key health issues.

A video performance of the coronavirus songs

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