Life-Saving Lullabies: The conception, development and adaptation of a cultural heritage tool for good


  • David Swann Sheffield Hallam University
  • James Reid University of Huddersfield
  • Barry Doyle University of Huddersfield



On 9 May 2019, President Edgar Lungu of Zambia declared maternal and prenatal deaths a Public Health emergency with 10-15 women per week losing their lives due to preventable causes. The objective of the Life-Saving Lullabies project is to define and develop a zero-cost, innovation service strategy that is responsive to current maternal child health needs (MCH). The study is supported by St John Zambia (SJZ) and their volunteers who provide MCH services on behalf of the Ministry of Health. Until now, the potential for extending the functional purpose of lullaby lyrics as a methodological tool for delivering essential knowledge has been overlooked. The rationale for using song has evidence to support it. Studies show that singing lullabies promotes mother/ baby attachment (Creighton et al., 2013) and reduces prenatal stress and anxiety (Carolan, 2012). This study explores the potential of song as a culture heritage tool for imparting critical MCH knowledge and skills. Central to this, is our human-centred design approach (Design Council, 2005) that foregrounds the everyday experiences of young women. The research demonstrates the value of cultural heritage tools in enabling non-professionals as an untapped resource. A total of 31 MCH songs have been created.

Author Biographies

David Swann, Sheffield Hallam University

David is a Professor in Design and Research Lead for the Department of Art & Design. He is a double graduate of the Royal College of Art (MDes Industrial Design-1991 and PhD- 2011). His design research is grounded by frugal innovation and global healthcare challenges. In 2014, David won the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design’s World Design Impact Prize. In the same year he was selected to participate in the UK’s inaugural GREAT Festival of Creativity, an international showcase highlighting the best of British innovation. In 2015, David was a finalist in Unicef's Wearables for Good Challenge with WAAA! In 2016, the London Design Museum relocated to the Grade II listed former Commonwealth Institute building in Holland Park. David’s LifeHacket and ABC Syringe were both included in its inaugural exhibition.

David's frugal innovations can be found in the permanent collections of the London Science Museum, The Design Museum and the MUDAC.

James Reid, University of Huddersfield

Jim Reid joined the University in September 2008 and his teaching and research is in the sociology of childhood and families in the Department of Education and Community Studies.
Subsequent to social work practice with children and their families and as a social work manager he took up a post with the University of Teesside where he taught social work before managing the social work programmes at that University. During this period Jim worked with UNICEF if Central Asia in developing academic infrastructure and practices.
As a member of the Huddersfield Centre for Research in Education and Society (HUDCRES), Jim’s rresearch interests have focussed on the political ethic of care. He has developed research into the sociology of maternal and child health including the utility of Finnish ‘baby boxes’. He has received three grants from the University of Huddersfield / Research England to develop two interdisciplinary, international projects involing research in the UK, Finland, Vietnam and Zambia. Jim is Co-I on an AHRC funded urgency grant - UKRI GCRF 'Life-saving Lullabies: Reducing maternal and infant mortality in Zambia.'
He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, founding convenor of the Children and Childhoods SIG at the British Educational Research Association (BERA) and a member of the BERA conference and events committee. He is a member of the International Sociological Association and the International Society for the Prevention of Infant Deaths.