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Apr 26, 2023, 4:00 am UTC

1 min

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Transforming healthcare: The rise of social prescriptions

Infographic on social prescriptions

Social prescriptions are rising to tackle the non-medical challenges that influence our health.

According to Kate Mulligan, senior director for the Canadian Institute for Social Prescribing, "They change the focus from, 'What's the matter with you?' to 'What matters to you?' "

This month in Canada, Mulligan launched the nation's first graduate course in social prescribing at the University of Toronto.

The approach has taken root in the United Kingdom, where the government has invested more than £5.77 million (USD 7.91 million) in a pilot program for "green social prescribing," also known as nature prescriptions.

Canada, the United States, Australia, and other countries, are building on these efforts, adapting, and testing social prescriptions in different communities. 

Social prescriptions connect people to activities, community, and services to support their health and well-being. They are often used to address the negative impact of loneliness and social isolation. But they can also be applied to many other non-medical needs, including better access to housing and food, and combatting ageism and racism.

Research on the benefits of this approach is still in its early days, but results are promising. For example, a review article published last month in The Lancet Planetary Health found beneficial effects of nature prescriptions on anxiety and depression, blood pressure, and daily activity levels. And a global consortium of researchers, led by PowerLab in Australia, recently received a major grant to run a randomized clinical trial — the gold standard in health research — to test the health benefits of urban green space, especially for mental and heart health.

However, rigorous, large-scale studies are needed to probe the benefits for different groups of people, from adolescents to older adults, and various health conditions. 

What is clear today is that social prescriptions represent an alternative form of support while people wait for treatment and other healthcare services. So they are a development that we'll keep watching.  


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