The University of Bath Institute for Policy Research (IPR) is holding a one-day symposium to explore the broad issues around the evaluation of social prescribing. The event is open to academics, policy makers and practitioners with an interest in social prescribing, community health and wellbeing, and will be an opportunity to engage in discussion on the complexities of measuring changes in individual wellbeing and community health as well as the opportunities and challenges associated with collecting, sharing and using these and other data to enhance our understanding of the benefits of social prescribing.
Social prescribing is a term that has emerged to describe processes for linking primary healthcare service providers and individuals to third sector voluntary organisations that provide a wide range of health-enhancing activities in the community. The aim of social prescribing is to improve individual health in a holistic way by addressing the broader social determinants of wellbeing, like isolation, lifestyle and low income. Paradoxically, social prescribing has gained considerable traction and mobilized a wide base of advocates and champions ahead of any systematic body of underpinning evidence on its effectiveness. Support for social prescribing has been generated exclusively on the basis of compelling stories of positive change to individual lives, communities and healthcare practices. Yet now there is a growing focus on the need for rigorous measurement and solid evaluation to enable comparison between programmes and understand what works.
The symposium recognises this paradox, and seeks to explore the role and significance of narrative in enabling creative ideas to gain political support and shape policy design and development. In addition, it provides a timely opportunity to discuss the extent to which social prescribing is achieving its aims and how far better data collection and outcome measurement could help.