What is social prescribing?
Social prescribing is the process whereby health professionals, including GPs, have the resources and infrastructure to link patients with social services – or even social groups – in a bid to address the social determinants contributing to poor health and stave off the epidemic of loneliness and social isolation. A GP, for example, may prescribe non-medical activities for patients, ranging from health and fitness programs, to movie clubs and meditation.
A recent report was released by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and the Consumer Health Forum (CHF), suggesting social prescribing should be incorporated into routine health care. Survey’s commissioned by the study indicated of the 200 plus consumers surveyed, 88% agreed that community programs and services could help their health and wellbeing. However, 57% said their GP never discussed using such services.
The RACGP President, Dr Harry Nespolon said that similar programs had been successfully implemented in the UK, Canada and Singapore.
“With the huge challenges we face regarding rising chronic illness, mental health issues, isolation and loneliness and the resulting costs, we urgently need to consider our approach to healthcare in Australia – social prescribing offers an innovative solution. “
This was supported by CHF CEO, Leanne Wells, who said: “This is a vital development for patients. It provides a plan to develop more effective care.
“Social prescribing can help to address the social determinants of health, such as low education and income, which can affect people’s health and wellbeing. It has become particularly important given rising rates of chronic illness, mental health issues, social isolation and loneliness, many of which cannot be treated effectively with a medical approach alone.”
Patients who had been part of a pilot program in Melbourne, expressed significant improvement in mental wellbeing, a reduction in reliance on medications and psychological counselling. One participant said she “has not looked back” after she was advised to join a chronic pain support group.
Read more on social prescribing in Australia
The Social Prescribing Roundtable Report can be viewed online here: https://www.chf.org.au/sites/default/files/social_prescribing_roundable_report_chf_racgp_v11.pdf