Rehabilitation Without Walls

UN Policymakers and Leading Medical Practitioners Explore Alternative Medical Treatments to Promote Global Health and Productivity

NEW YORK, New York, July 26, 2002— Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) conference attendees this month focused on shaping cooperative global human resource development, including health and education. Part of the impetus for this far-ranging exploration is the awareness that to be economically sound and productive, the global community must also be healthy—mentally and physically –in order to use its full potential and talents.

Groundbreaking Symposium

This view was articulated at a groundbreaking United Nations-hosted symposium held on December 6, 2001 on the interrelationship of Music, Technology, Culture and Healthcare.

Attended by UN policymakers, NGOs and medical practioners, the event was part of the UN’s Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, which was established to foster global cooperation and understanding. The symposium was made possible through the joint collaboration of ECOSOC, the International Council for Caring Communities (ICCC), the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU, the American Music Conference, and the National Association of Music.

In their introductory remarks, UN Division Chief for ECOSOC Support and Coordination Aliye Celik and Therese Gastaut, Director of Public Affairs with the Department of Public Information, cited the ability of music to minimize divisiveness and to promote international mutual understanding. These capabilities are consistent, they pointed out, with the goals of the Year of Dialogue.

According to a statement by Giadomenico Picco, Representative of the Secretary-General, for the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations the intended dialogue is an ongoing exchange between “those who perceive diversity as a threat and those who see diversity as a step towards betterment and growth.”

Such a global exchange, speakers noted throughout the day, has become ever more necessary in light of the tragic events of September 11.


Participants centered on identifying ways to harness scientifically documented, cost-effective, and accessible methodologies such as music therapy, to ensuring worldwide wellness.

Speakers were drawn from a cross-section of international music therapy specialists including Dr. Barry Bittman, Medical Director, Mind-Body Wellness Center, PA; Dr. Yeou-Cheng Ma, Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Dr. Joseph Nagler, Co-Director of the Rusk Center for Research in Arts and Medicine; Dr. Lawrence Ferrara, Chairman, NYU Music Department; Dr. Joanne Loewy, Director of the Armstrong Music Therapy Program at Beth Israel Medical Center and Dr. Connie Tamaino, Director, Institute of Neurological Function and Music Therapy, Beth Abraham Health Services.

Music as Natural Rhythm

As the opening speaker, Dr. Mathew Lee, Howard A. Rusk Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University stated, “From earliest history… music and medicine have enjoyed a natural bond. Your body is composed of a box of rhythms —cardiac, sleeping, endocrine, etc. and when these rhythms are altered, you have illness or disease.”

He cited new diagnostic technology that validates claims that rhythm has the ability to impact patients beneficially — both biologically and psychologically. Conditions as different as asthma, Alzheimer’s, cancer, depression, dementia, multiple sclerosis, war-trauma, insufficient neonatal nutrition and sickle cell anemia have all responded well to music therapy interventions, he and other speakers said.

Cost-Effective Health Strategy

Lee also observed that the argument for adapting alternative therapies like music is made all the more compelling by the fact that it is an innate, universal basic human resource, and therefore, cost-effective and universally accessible.

Music is a health strategy that can help meet the challenge of rising medical costs and the simultaneous increasing numbers of the global aging, he said. Agreeing, Dr. Mary Adamek, President, American Music Therapy Association expressed the consensus view. “It is critical that we start looking at the (scientific) evidence and start to build models for delivery of these services so that people around the world can benefit from what we have learned,” she said.

Follow-Up Agenda

According to ICCC president Professor Davis, the symposium was intended to spark future policymaker/practitioner meetings.

Participants pledged to:

  • Determine how existing and new technologies can aid in disseminating the latest and best information
  • Find cost-effective vehicles, including streaming videos, to provide virtual learning
  • Train local healthcare providers in the practices of rehabilitative music therapy
  • Encourage ongoing collaborative research projects
  • Facilitate future inter-regional, policy/practioner symposiums
  • Promote efforts to incorporate these proposals into global government policies
  • Publicize such innovative cost-effective complementary initiatives as Rusk Without Walls, which was founded to advance the integration of complementary therapies into the body of mainstream medicine
  • Standardize the quality and delivery of complementary therapies through such initiatives as the World Health Organization’s May 2002 announcement that it is drawing up regulatory guidelines governing alternative medical treatments.

For more information e-mail Insights of the Program available in a hard copy booklet: “HARNESSING MUSIC: New Directions in global Healthcare Delivery

Please send $5 payable to ICCC to 24 Central Park South, NY 10019 for a copy.


Click here to download the brochure