What exactly is a social prescription? It can take many forms. Ukulele groups. Dance lessons. Karaoke singalongs. Museum visits. Coffee talk tables. Community gardening. Even Bingo! It might be a small group or just a couple of people connecting to go fishing together. For people who need a little boost connecting with their community, or don’t know where to begin in taking care of their own health and wellbeing, social prescribing provides a new pathway to community support: your Community Health Centre’s doctors or nurse practitioners.

You may have heard about social prescribing in the news lately, perhaps in reference to a program that will help connect people to the Royal Ontario Museum. What you might not already know is that social prescribing is taking root right here in western Elgin County, driven by a pilot program at West Elgin CHC. It’s all part of a program that is being tested at 11 Community Health Centres across Ontario right now, including ours.

We’re excited about this new tool, and we think our entire community needs to know about it. It will help enable our staff to ensure every point of contact for our clients is a possible gateway to better overall wellbeing. People trust their doctor’s advice; social prescribing builds on that trust to help us guide people toward activities that will promote health and wellbeing far beyond what can happen during a standard medical appointment. For example, at our centre, we’ve already been referring people through social prescribing to cooking classes, art and supports groups, as well as the local drama society to name a few.

Social prescribing is ushering in a revolution in what doctors and nurses can offer to community members in the United Kingdom, showing promising results at achieving positive outcomes for clients and healthcare providers. Supporters of the now nation-wide initiative include the U.K. Prime Minister.

“In many cases, people know what they need to achieve better health and wellbeing – it’s more a question of getting connected to each other and the right services,” said Stephanie Skelding at the West Elgin Community Health Centre. “Social prescribing gives us another way to ensure those connections are made deliberately, that we have a way to work with clients themselves to take control of their health, and that we have ways to follow up and learn more about the impacts. That’s exciting for a centre like ours where this work has always been important, but where the story hasn’t always been easy to tell.”

To learn more about social prescribing here in western Elgin please contact:
Stephanie Skelding  RN, Health Promoter/Systems Navigator
519 768-1715 x 2203, sskelding@wechc.on.ca