Green Social Prescribing
Development of a Toolkit for Green Social Prescribing
We are running a project to design a “digital toolkit” or online resource that can help improve access to “Green social prescribing” for people over the age of 50 who are living in deprived areas.
The project is funded by UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) MRC (Medical Research Council) for two years and started in October 2023.
What is Green Social Prescribing?
Most of the time, prescribing means getting medication from a doctor. Green social prescribing is becoming more popular across the UK as a new way for doctors and other healthcare staff to help people of all ages improve their health and wellbeing. Instead of giving tablets for problems like depression or joint and muscle pains, green social prescribing links people to ‘nature-based’ outdoor activities they like that will benefit both their physical and mental health. Some activities are walking in woodlands, gardening, social community projects that link people together to help reduce loneliness, or open-air art classes. All activities are based on the preferences and appropriate fit for the individual. Being able to get outside and enjoy fresh air is especially important as people age and find it more difficult to be active. And yet, very often people from poorer areas are not considered when creating new ways to improve health and green social prescribing is not easily accessible to all.
What will we do?
This project will bring many people together, including experts, GPs, patients, and others who are interested in expanding green social prescribing for older people and especially for those who live in economically challenged areas. Research in this field shows many health benefits of engaging in ‘nature-based’ activities yet many healthcare workers, including GPs, lack knowledge of how to refer people to such activities. Therefore, our overall aim is to develop and test an easy to use, digital toolkit to help healthcare staff working in primary care to refer more older patients living in deprived areas to ‘nature-based’ activities.
To do this we will hold workshops and talk with people covering a wide variety of perspectives to better understand what needs to be considered to develop the toolkit. We will develop the digital toolkit together with patients, healthcare workers and people working in the 3rd sector. We will then monitor the use of the toolkit in primary care. We will talk to patients who are referred to ‘nature-based’ activities to understand their views and monitor any changes in their health before and after they are referred. The goal is to make it easier for general practice staff to use green social prescribing and in the longer term to support more older people from deprived areas to experience the health benefits that ‘nature-based’ activities provide.