Giving Compass' Take: 

• Rebecca Fogg reports that social prescribing is a form of preventative health care that meets patients needs in ways that don't enforce medication but instead are catered to both their preferences and their problems. 

• Why has social prescribing not taken off yet in the U.S.? How can this form of healthcare run into challenges with people who would prefer medication as a solution?

• Social prescribing could be a potential solution for the variation of increasing death rates (by state) in the United States. 

In Health for hire: Unleashing patient potential to reduce chronic disease costs, Clayton Christensen, Andrew Waldeck and I suggest a framework that can help healthcare professionals in such partnerships. The key to this framework, according to our research, is uncovering patients’ progress that they are trying to make in their lives at a particular juncture.

For instance, knowing that a patient suffering from anxiety and high blood pressure has the job, “excel at work so I can better support my family,” a healthcare professional might suggest (among other things) mindfulness-based stress reduction.

The United Kingdom has taken off with the Social Prescribing movement. Social prescribing programs enable healthcare professionals to refer patients to qualified community services for help addressing non-medical, health-related needs, often in line with the life progress patients are already trying to make. Not-for-profit Age UK runs a program in cities across England, called the Personalised Integrated Care program, which makes extensive use of social prescribing.

Social prescribing referrals vary across programs and represent the diversity of a patient populations’ health-related needs and goals. Socially isolated people suffering from depression might be “prescribed” art classes or a fishing group. Diabetics might be introduced to peer-support groups to assist in self-management, and overweight people might be referred to walking clubs or subsidized swimming classes.

Studies suggest that social prescribing can help improve quality of life, alleviate depression and anxiety, reduce emergency hospital visits, and more. But the practice is still in its infancy, so more rigorous and systematic study is necessary to fully assess its health, cost, and healthcare system capacity benefits. Yet, it is difficult to study complex interventions like social prescribing, which address varied issues through varied means.

Read the full article about social prescribing by Rebecca Fogg at The Christensen Institute.