It is well known that physical activity can prevent many health conditions, from mental illnesses to type-2 diabetes and obesity to some cancers. Unfortunately, owing to recent lockdowns, numerous people were prevented from leaving their homes for extended periods which made exercising increasingly difficult, so now more than ever is the time to return to health and fitness.
The Global Social Prescribing Alliance (GSPA) shares, “In a world operating beyond the pandemic, traditional approaches to health and wellbeing might no longer be enough.”
To that end, social prescribing is a ‘strengths-based’ approach that begins with a common understanding of the greatest issues facing society, as well as mapping available resources to acquire shared solutions. Being active is a key element of this concept - keeping people moving, connected, able to work and volunteer, and getting out of the house.
We have seen how UEFA football and the Olympics have brought together fans on national and global scales. The BBC alone broadcasted 350 hours of the Tokyo Olympics, acting as a key motivator for exercise, which provided a sense of community as well as inspired those watching to be more fit and active themselves. So, while the world’s finest athletes take the stage at the Olympics, those at home are using the power of sport to help improve their own physical and mental wellbeing and recuperate after the pandemic.
Social prescribing has the potential to do the very same on a local basis. Its focus is on what matters to individuals - a holistic view of one’s needs and strengths - not just their biomedical ones that require ‘fixing’. Good social prescribing is therefore attainable when local partners collaborate in building upon existing community assets and services. This includes opportunities for creativity and the arts, as well as physical activities, learning new skills, volunteering and self-help, in addition to support with benefits, employment, housing, and debt.
The central feature of social prescribing is enabling local agencies to refer people to link workers, each of whom uses a personalised care approach, and connects people to community groups and agencies that will support their health and wellbeing. For instance, people who are susceptible to falls might be signposted to a dance class to help work on their balance, or people with arthritis could be referred to a specialised group exercise regime.
Essentially, social prescribing helps people to live fitter, healthier, and more satisfied lives by signposting them to community services that also provide social interaction. It is an innovative movement that is growing and has potential to lower financial burdens on our health services, especially on primary care.
The GSPA Playbook shares expert guidance on the best health and wellbeing practices and develops the vision set out by global leaders in 2015 at the UN General Assembly, when the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were first announced.
Providing an outline of opportunities for creating novel ethical platforms that can alleviate pressures on public services, the Global Social Prescribing Alliance invites other health professionals to learn more about this revolutionary approach to healthcare and implement measures in their own local communities.