A whole community approach to ending social isolation through a social prescribing network

Does Social Prescribing Work?

Although community based group programs have been around for a long time, the idea of a formal referral pathway from 1) a GP or other primary care health professional to 2) a link worker with whom the individual co-designs their social prescription to 3) a community group program, is relatively new. Much of the research on social prescribing has emerged from the United Kingdom.

Research evidence shows that:

  • The most common examples of social prescribing are to creative arts groups[1], exercise groups[2], and adult education courses[3].
  • It does not appear to matter what type of group, the important thing is that the individual chooses a group activity that suits them[4].
  • Research shows that people who participate in social prescribing experience a range of benefits including decreased loneliness, depression and anxiety, increased social support and wellbeing[5].
  • Social prescribing is likely to be successful when there is a sustained and flexible relationship between the individual and the link worker, and a strong and vibrant voluntary and community sector[6].
  • Some of the research conducted so far has methodological limitations such as small sample sizes, and a lack of control or comparison group (that did not receive social prescribing)[7].
  • Due to a lack of a theoretical model, it is also unclear how social prescribing works.

A group of psychologists from the University of QLD, Australian National University, and Nottingham Trent University in the UK are conducting a 3-year research project to evaluate the Mt Gravatt social prescribing scheme.

We plan to answer 2 key questions:

  1. How does social prescribing help participants?
  2. How does social prescribing benefit communities in ways that ensure their sustainability over time?

For more information on the research, please contact project leader, Associate Professor Genevieve Dingle, School of Psychology, The University of QLD. dingle@psy.uq.edu.au. Website: www.uq.edu.au/researcher/30

[1] Stickley & Hui (2012). Social prescribing through arts on prescription in a UK city. Public Health, 126, 574–579.

[2] Flannery, Loughren, Baker, & Crone (2014). Exercise on prescription evaluation report for South Gloucestershire. Cheltenham: University of Gloucestershire, UK

[3] Feinstein et al., (2003). The contribution of adult learning to health and social capital. London: Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning.

[4] Haslam, Jetten, Cruwys, Dingle, & Haslam (2018) The New Psychology of Health – Unlocking the Social Cure. London and New York: Routledge.

[5] Chatterjee, Camic, Lockyer & Thomson (2018) Non-clinical community interventions: a systematised review of social prescribing schemes, Arts & Health, 10:2, 97-123.

[6] Woodall, J., et al. (2018). Understanding the effectiveness and mechanisms of a social prescribing service: a mixed method analysis. BMC Health Services Research, 18:604. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-018-3437-7

[7] Bickerdike, L., et al., (2017). Social prescribing: less rhetoric and more reality. A systematic review of the evidence. BMJ Open, 7:e013384. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2016-013384

Mt Gravatt Community Centre
1693 Logan Rd, Upper Mount Gravatt QLD 4122
P: 0491 625 869
E: linkworker@mgcci.org.au

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