I attended a meeting today, which reminded me of being in a foreign language class at school, as I found myself jotting down a number of new previously unheard of phrases.
So like any good student, when I got back to the office I looked these up in the dictionary - now Google of course - to find these terms were not new but have been around for quite sometime!
Furthermore, it was even easier to find lots of related comment on Twitter, so I am now desperately wondering where I have been that I haven't come across "Social Prescribing" before, or perhaps even more worryingly not yet had the good fortune to meet a Social Prescribing Coordinator...
Now by all accounts the latter are gurus in waiting, with the potential to save the NHS lots of money and improve the health and well being of many patients - something that we can all benefit from. Not least because there is a growing acceptance in the medical community that people who lead happy and active social lives enjoy better health than those who do not.
However, I guess my real amazement comes from the fact that such roles are needed in the first place. How is it that as a society we seem to have become so disconnected from our neighbours that we no longer know or feel able to ask who might be able to help us, so we need a professional to point us in the right direction and help us find support?
So rather than creating new roles, why are we not looking at the root causes and having a debate about how our common values are in danger of being lost for good? No matter how good a job the professionals might be doing, I would suggest the intimacy and friendship of a community looking out for each other will always achieve more than any economic social programme ever will.
Whilst medical interventions are necessary to treat specific conditions or health problems, the importance of strong social networks, access to friends, family and support, and an active social life should not be underestimated. Evidence shows for instance that people who have a strong network of social support means they are more likely to take prescribed medicines. Such discoveries have led to a growing interest in what’s known as ‘social prescriptions. In practice this means that GPs, nurses or other healthcare practitioners work with patients to identify non-medical opportunities or interventions that will help them adopt healthier lifestyles or improve wider social aspects of their lives. The resulting services that patients can choose include everything from debt counselling, support groups and walking clubs, to community cooking classes and one-to-one coaching.