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Social prescribing is a key policy initiative for the NHS. It seeks to address people’s non-clinical problems (e.g. money or housing issues, loneliness), shown to increase physical and mental ill-health, through a range of activities (e.g. befriending, cultural events, luncheon clubs). Evidence suggests that social prescribing depends on availability of local services, which are often based in urban areas. Less attention has been paid to social prescribing for people in rural areas.

The potential for social prescribing may be more restricted in rural areas (e.g. due to lack of public transport, a potentially more limited range of voluntary/community sector activities, having a smaller population to draw on to run and attend local groups). Therefore, there may be a greater risk of social isolation and health inequalities. Consulting those living in these areas is key to developing a programme of research to meet their needs and priorities.

We have engaged with members of a more rural area, to help us understand how social prescribing should be set up to make a difference to health and well-being across different life stages. We partnered with a community pub in Oxfordshire to run this one day engagement event.

Our engagement event aimed to:

  • Test out creative approaches to engaging members of the public, across age groups, in discussions about social prescribing and its role and delivery in rural settings.
  • Identify research and implementation priorities for SP in rural areas for those living in such a community
  • Identify and build relationships with community champions to establish connections for future research.