Social prescribing encourages patients to pursue habits or hobbies that contribute to their health and can make an impact on improving their overall wellness
Healthy chiropractors and MDs personally have healthy habits and hobbies that keep wellness in the forefront of their lifestyles.
“I’ve had the amazing opportunity over many years now to meet hundreds of talented doctors that are urban farmers, fantastic cooks, authors of their own self-help books, super-moms, competitive bass angler or fisherman, avid hikers, pilots, great fathers, beginner tennis players and even competitive, world-class tennis players,” says Michael Tetreault, editor-in-chief of Concierge Medicine Today.
Research behind social prescribing
New research is supporting that doctors connecting with their patients with “social prescribing,” or encouraging patients to pursue habits or hobbies that contribute to their health, can make an impact on improving their overall wellness.
“We’re finding that hope is consistently associated with fewer symptoms of depression. And the good news is that hope is something that can be taught, and can be developed in many of the people who need it,” said Ohio State University researcher Jennifer Cheavens.
In the U.S., social prescribing has over the years largely been confined to psychology and psychiatry, but it is making its way into other practices concerned with overall wellness and holistic health.
“It’s often the job of our doctor to re-center our focus and calibrate our lifestyle when we as the patient simply cannot,” Tetreault says. “There are a lot of ways doctors can help people do that, and one that’s getting some momentum is ‘social prescription.’”
Getting on the same page with patients
Psychology Today’s Christopher Bergland writes that social prescribing takes a four-pronged approach that addresses:
(1) physical health
(2) psychological well-being
(3) perceived social isolation, and
(4) financial stressors
Bergland writes that social prescribing could include “community gardening, cooking clubs, debt management workshops, walking groups, career coaching, gym classes, group dancing, making art, volunteering, etc.”
Sheryl Ubelacker of The Canadian Press wrote the article, “Doctors pen ‘social prescriptions’ aimed at easing depression, loneliness in patients,” and outlined one social prescription example:
“There’s a long-haul trucker who was experiencing social isolation and he started up a knitting group at the community health center,” she wrote.
Social prescribing can be particularly effective for patients experiencing depression, loneliness or anxiety.
Giving an extra 1%
Tetreault points out the example of “Dr. Michael Monaco, a physician with a thriving medical practice in Kansas City, has a weekly walking group in which he regularly invites, interacts and meets with his patients. It’s an opportunity for patients to connect with their doctor in a personal way while sharing memories and good vibes with one another. The social atmosphere of the group is amazing and it has been something Dr. Monaco and his patients look forward to and have been attending for years — even in the snow.”
Tetreault sums-up social prescribing by saying, “What would it look like today if my doctor gave 1% more effort today than yesterday? Often, that’s all it takes. But towards what activity? How well do his/her patients really know him/her? Is there something — e.g. hobby, activity, etc. — I have as the doctor that I can share in organized small group settings with my patients? What people look for when they visit and talk about their life with their doctor is that they help the patient look for progress, not perfection.”
In addition to chiropractors “prescribing” strengthening activities or stretching or durable medical devices for patients, look for opportunities to find the interests of patients and utilize “social prescribing” to bring healthy habits and hobbies to the forefront for patients.
Rick Vach is editor-in-chief of Chiropractic Economics magazine.