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Social prescribing is the practice where health professionals, including GPs, have the resources and infrastructure to refer and/or link patients to a range of local, non-clinical social services, or even social activities groups – in a bid to address the social determinants contributing to poor health, and stave off the epidemic of loneliness and social isolation.

One of the leading advocates of social prescribing in Australia is Tracey Johnson, CEO of Inala Primary Care in Queensland.

According to Tracey social prescribing has been occurring between doctors and patients since ‘Adam was a lad’. “Doctors have always had a role in helping people understand their community and how to be well”. Tracey explained that social prescribing is widespread, occurring in neighbourhood centres, mental health support organisations, schools and health and community organisations. “It helps a person to live their best life by supporting them to navigate to the most appropriate places, spaces and activities where their goals can be fulfilled and improve their health and wellbeing”.

Tracey has been calling for social prescribing and allied health to be incorporated as core pillars in our Medicare system. She highlighted that the evidence base for social prescribing is growing at a rate of knots. “That’s why the NHS, the largest social prescribing system in the world, is now funding social prescribing workers and health volunteers and health visitors in general practices across the country. Thousands of social prescribing people are working across tens of thousands of practices in the NHS. Why are they doing that? Because there’s an evidence base there”.

The Federal Government has been considering social prescribing as a national program option and it’s in the National Preventative Health Strategy, launched in December 2021.

In Tonic Media Network’s exclusive GP webinar series, General Practice in a Rapidly Changing World, Health Minister, Mark Butler noted the value of social prescribing and pointed to some pilot programs currently occurring in Queensland.

“The Minister mentioned that Primary Health Networks will be encouraged to utilise new team-based care and innovation funding to support initiatives in social prescribing as these are valued by some general practices,” said Tracey.

“Bring it on! The evidence is clear. Social prescribing works and every general practice who wants to engage with the link worker workforce should be encouraged to do so,” Tracey added.


Further information – The recommendations of an Australian forum co-convened by the RACGP into what should occur with social prescribing consumers’ experience is in terms of social prescribing from their healthcare team  – Report which puts Australia in context – How social prescribing can apply over the course of a life social prescribing services or initiatives What the Budget means for general practice webinar and podcast

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