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Social Prescribing the new prescription

A new report from the RACGP and the Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF). has found that the use of social prescribing is likely to counter rising chronic health problems.

RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said. ‘At the frontline of healthcare, GPs are best placed to employ social prescribing to help improve their patients’ health and wellbeing,’

The United Kingdom has used this apprach successfully as have other countries including promising trials in Canada and Singapore. It can help shift the balance to focusing on prevention and early intervention for patients.

We urgently need to consider our approach to healthcare in Australia, with huge challenges in rising chronic illness, mental health issues, isolation and loneliness plus the associated costs

‘Social prescribing offers an innovative solution.’

Social prescribing involves the referral of patients to non-medical activities, ranging from health and fitness programs to movie clubs and meditation.

This report follows a roundtable co-hosted by the RACGP and CHF in partnership with the National Health and Medical Research Council Partnership Centre for Health System Sustainability, and a consultation process. It recommends that social prescribing be incorporated into routine healthcare in Australia.

In a survey commissioned for the initiative, 70% of GPs said they believe referring patients to community activities, groups or services helps to improve health outcomes, but most do not have links with such services.

Some GPs are already employ social prescribing, but more resourcing and recognition is needed to implement it in a sustainable way said Dr Nespolon.

‘Social prescribing offers a huge opportunity to improve patient health and wellbeing and cut the costs of chronic disease, but it won’t happen unless everyone can access it,’ he said.

Leanne Wells, CHF Chief Executive Officer, describes social prescribing as a ‘vital development for patients’.

‘[It] can help to address the social determinants of health, such as low education and income, which can affect people’s health and wellbeing,’ she said.

‘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.

‘We need to find more effective ways to keep people out of hospital in order for our health system to remain stable.’

For future information please see RACGP

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