Prescriptions are for more than just drugs. Ontario Health Teams should use ‘social prescribing’ to improve our health and wellbeing.

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  • Lynne Meredith says:

    We need this in the heart and stroke community

  • Valeriechristina white says:

    Insightful reading. After 72 years of NHS slowly yet surely clinical directors staff nurses, members of new MH peer Coaches UK networks collaborate Across UK health trusts disciplines of social prescribing are pilot schemes. On Thursday I participated in social prescribing initiatives in maternal care at North west london NHS trust. In UK london NHS trust I am involved with clinical staff, board directors as registered patient ambassador service user rep qualified coproduction and MH peer coach/support also I’m Islington resident rep input on North London partnerships (NPL)strategic transformation plan. Early applications of Social prescribing in repeat medications methadone programs show improvements in long term patient engagement and long term health planning. I would appreciate opportunity to access join applying Canadian models into UK NHS work.

  • Hugh Williams says:

    Thank you for this article. This message needs to be featured in OHT discussions.
    Community Health Centres are already poised to deliver, expand and innovate these to meet local needs.
    Stonegate CHC and Rexdale CHC (the two that I know) are both doing great work with the pilot – but it needs to become baked into the regular model.
    Also, FUNDING will need to be associated with those prescriptions for activities that cost money.
    It moves the needle from a patient focus to a people focus, which is where health should be.

  • Amanda says:

    Recreation Therapists need to be added to more community health teams. The profession has been social prescribing for 40+ years and underfunded and under recognized for this important work seen as “non-essential” for too long

  • Adam Smith says:

    I think this is social policy advocacy for the purpose of expanding the alleged importance on health care into other parts of life and for expanding budgets of researchers and health care providers etc.

    This is likely to place an ever-increasing strain on health care where people go to ER or a doctor to just chat. Why can’t those folks go to a community center, join a social club, go to church or other religious center, take a class? A doctor writing a prescription to “rent-a-friend” isn’t a cure for loneliness.

    • Adam Smith says:

      I’m replying to myself to cite another Healthdebate article … Shifting resources AWAY from health care … Instead of social prescribing by health professionals, how about prioritizing health care resources, reducing health care spending and compensation to health care professionals, and shifting that to others.


      • Mike Schwindt says:

        Adam, I believe that is exactly what this initiative is proposing to do. The unfortunate fact is that currently, we have citizens in our communities using the ER as a place to go when they need a human connection. As our Healthcare system operates now, doctors are expected to attempt to diagnose a reason for the patient’s visit, ruling out any possible pathology before discharging them.

        The idea of social prescribing is that there is a layer at triage that catches those who are just there for a visit (as patients), and directs them to appropriate connections. Your second point, about redirecting resources to support some of these other programs, etc., is absolutely valid, but we need the tool in place to filter those who require these programs to them, or the reduction in funding to health care is only going to result in a lower quality of care for all, whether they require medical care or not.

      • Adam Smith says:

        Agree with you. But the power dynamics are that physicians and other health care workers will demand increased resources for themselves (all of whom are well educated mostly middle-upper class people) to perform these functions. These are the people who have access to political resources to influence debate, including here. To what end? I am proposing to shift spending away from health care. That is not a “lower quality of care”. You seem to be stuck in the idea that more spending means better care; more services means better care. That is not true. Can you agree with that?

    • Abhi Mukherjee says:

      Good article and good conversation. Thank you to the authors.
      My hope is that someday we will go beyond just words and discussions and articles in various fora, and actually DO something about it. Clearly, the best form of healthcare is not just the “sickcare” system. Yes, we need hospitals and physicians and primary care. But we also need a robust wellness care system that includes addressing the social determinants of health. Social prescribing is not just to address those who are sick and need care – a key element of social prescribing is preventative wellness care. True healthcare would be a holistic approach addressing the body, mind, social factors and eco-systems.

      I am not sure anyone would strongly argue that this is not the case. And yet, we don’t seem to have the will to back our intelligence and intuition with the investment that is required. I am not sure what more is required for us to make a fundamental shift towards a preventative healthcare system which incorporates social prescribing as a pillar.

  • Phil says:

    Our health care system is run by physicians. This is a problem. We need funding for the broader health care team- social workers, psychologists, dietitians, pharmacists, PT, OT, etc.

    • Mike Fraumeni says:

      That’s an excellent point Phil. For example why is something like this clinic as below, being run as a private clinic that does not receive or rather allow OHIP billing it seems rather than part of the mainstream health care system, when it’s treating actual medical diseases and conditions?

      Functional Neurology & Vestibular Rehabilitation Clinic – rehabilitation programs for neurological disorders

  • ediriweera desapriya says:

    In order to address social poverty (loneliness, dysfunctional social relationships etc.), we need to bring effective social and health care policies. Building social capital and community cohesion is paramount important for sustainable and effective health care system. We need to bring back our old social values to enhance community solidarity. It is our social responsibility to make this world a better place for all. Research found that health care providers rarely refer patients to local community groups or advice services, due to a lack of up-to-date knowledge of local resources. In order to enhance health and wellbeing of patients, health care providers need to address patients’ medical and psychosocial needs. Studies also found that the patients are not comfortable discussing their non-medical needs with health care providers. It is important that we invest on research to find innovative tools that could facilitate doctor patient conversation on this important health care issue.

  • Mike Fraumeni says:

    The problem though is that in an environment where there needs to be robust evidence for the OMHLTC to cover the costs under the provincial health care plan, this doesn’t seem the case, at least for a very “picky”, if you will, environment as we have in Ontario when it comes to funding health care services and technologies ie:
    “The impact of social prescribing services on service users: a systematic review of the evidence.” – Eur J Public Health. 2019 Jun 14. pii: ckz078. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckz078. [Epub ahead of print] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31199436


Kate Mulligan


Kate Mulligan is the Director of Policy and Communications at Alliance for Healthier Communities and Assistant Professor at University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health. She sits on the Toronto Board of Health and directs Canada’s first social prescribing project.

Kavita Mehta


Kavita Mehta is the CEO of the Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario and Vice-Chair of The Change Foundation, an independent health policy think tank that works to inform positive change in Ontario’s Health System. 

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