The role of the healthcare system in social prescribing
The majority of health outcomes are determined by socioeconomic factors, which traditional healthcare systems are ill-prepared to address. Social prescribing offers a means of increasing the nonmedical options available to practitioners to better target these issues. Interventions are diverse but frequently involve signposting to community resources or referral to a ‘link worker’ who can support an individual in utilising these to deal with challenging situations. Some schemes also involve an element of community development. Theoretic rationale and qualitative data support social prescribing interventions; however, definitive evidence of efficacy is lacking. This is largely due to the inadequacy of current evaluation attempts and the framework of evidence valuation among policymakers. Specific challenges for social prescribing include defining the remit of interventions, issues around the link worker role, ensuring adequate funding, cross-sector working and stakeholder relationships and ensuring high-quality evaluation. Social prescribing is gaining global popularity; thus, practitioners and policymakers have a responsibility to promote high-quality, evidence-based interventions and the research required to identify these.