Abimbola Alao.
Abimbola Alao.

Dissertation: Drama as a tool to raise awareness of dementia


In her dissertation, Abimbola Alao explores how to raise the awareness of frontotemporal dementia within the Nigerian immigrant community in the UK by using drama as an educational tool.

Even though medical research on dementia is wide and has long roots internationally, the awareness of the condition varies among different populations. Abimbola Alao's study focuses on the Nigerian immigrant community in the UK and the efficacy of using drama as an educational tool to raise awareness of frontotemporal dementia (FTD).

"The Nigerian immigrant community is grossly understudied, even though they represent the largest number of people of African origin in the UK. The research about the prevalence of frontotemporal dementia within this group or any other Black Minority Ethnic (BME) community within the UK is almost non-existent," says Abimbola Alao.

According to Alao, it is estimated that about twenty-five thousand people from BME communities in the UK have one type of dementia or other, and by 2051, the number is expected to increase seven-fold. The exact prevalence of frontotemporal dementia is still unknown, although some studies estimate that FTD accounts for about 8% of people with dementia. However, in these surveys, more than 95% of subjects were Caucasian, which means non-white populations were underrepresented.

"In addition, people in BME communities do not access available services that support the care of people living with FTD for various reasons, such as ignorance, religious and cultural beliefs. Also, many of the people do not trust the healthcare system to meet their unique needs; this makes it difficult to raise awareness and provide crucial information," states Alao.

In her dissertation, Abimbola Alao explores and discusses whether drama could work as an alternative and efficient educational tool to raise awareness of a disease. Alao transforms her ethnographic research data into a dramatic play script called "My name is Beatrice". It is a full-length drama that explores frontotemporal dementia from the point of view of a young carer who is caring for her mum, a 43-year-old immigrant nurse from Nigeria.

"Art can have an instantaneous effect on an audience because it can capture their attention and leave enduring memories. A play which takes into account the complex needs of people living with dementia in BME communities has an evocative potential to reach people and to encourage them to access available healthcare provision for early diagnosis of FTD or other forms of dementia," explains Alao.

"In the future I aim to create a theatre production of this play. This will be made available in theatres, religious centres and other BME communities. It will also be presented to medical practitioners and medical students; this will enable people to engage with the findings of my thesis in a more accessible way," says Alao.

Information on the public examination

The academic dissertation Raising Awareness of Frontotemporal Dementia among Nigerian Immigrant Communities in the UK, through Storytelling. An Autoethnography Thesis, Using an Art-based Research Approach, by Abimbola Alao, MA, will be publicly examined in the Faculty of Art and Design at the University of Lapland on Friday, 2 June 2023, starting at 12 noon (UCT+3) in Lecture Hall 10 (Kaarina Hall, address: Yliopistonkatu 8, Rovaniemi). The opponent is Professor Isabelle Gatt from the University of Malta, and the custos is Professor Satu Uusiautti from the University of Lapland.

The public defense can be followed online: https://blogi.eoppimispalvelut.fi/ulapland

Information on the doctoral candidate

Abimbola Alao is a writer, lecturer and researcher. Her research explores the influence of psychosocial intervention for dementia; her current research focuses on the prevalence of frontotemporal dementia in BME communities in the UK, and how to raise awareness of FTD for early diagnosis.

Abimbola Alao taught creative writing and storytelling at Plymouth Marjon University from 2007–2018. She is currently a visiting lecturer in Medical Humanities at the Peninsular Medical School, University of Plymouth, UK.

She is an award-winning author, performance storyteller and playwright. Her short play Legal Stuff won the BBC and Royal Court Theatre's 24 Degrees Writing Competition in 2008. Abimbola Alao is the author of: Desert Haiku, Dear Toriola, Let's Talk About Perimenopause, The Legendary Weaver: New Edition, Trickster Tales for Telling, The Goshen Principle and How to Enhance your Storytelling With Music. Abimbola is also a children's book translator, and her work includes Yoruba translations of the classics 'Hansel and Gretel, 'The Little Red Hen and the Grain of Wheat', and several other books published by Mantra Lingua.

Further information

Abimbola Alao
lampoeducation (at) gmail.com

Information on the publication

Abimbola Alao: Raising Awareness of Frontotemporal Dementia among Nigerian Immigrant Communities in the UK, through Storytelling. An Autoethnography Thesis, Using an Art-based Research Approach. Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 355. University of Lapland: Rovaniemi. ISBN 978-952-337-362-4. ISSN 1796-6310.

Permanent address of the publication: https://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-337-362-4