Since, 2018 Latrobe Health Assembly has been developing a social prescribing model with the local community.
Social prescribing, sometimes referred to as community referral, is a way that enables clinical professionals such as GPs, nurses, nurse practitioners and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services. Sometimes patients will present with non-clinical needs, such as feeling feel isolated, lonely or stressed.
Over 200 community members were engaged by Larter Consulting on behalf of the Latrobe Health Assembly to design a model that meets the needs of Latrobe Valley residents. From these recommendations, a pilot was run in Churchill from 2021 – early-2023. This involved employing a community connector based at Hazelwood Health Centre and Churchill Neighbourhood Centre – someone who the GPs, nurses or the Neighbourhood Centre staff could refer clients as required. The role of the community connector is to listen to the individual’s needs and help them connect with activities and community groups that might help them feel better.
The role of the community connector is diverse and evolving – requiring them to make strong connections with the health professionals in their practice to ensure a well-rounded approach to the individual’s wellbeing. Alongside this, they build and maintain relationships with local organisations and community groups so they can guide the individual on the options that are available and help connect them in.
Social prescribing looks different for everyone and the community connector will work closely with the person in a way that suits them. Sometimes this may be several appointments before they feel ready to connect with the community, other times it may include the community connecter joining them on an activity. Most importantly, social prescribing allows the individual to have more control of their own wellbeing by working together with the community connector to tailor the experience to them.
Following the pilot in Churchill, Latrobe Community Health Service (LCHS) have partnered with us to continue piloting the program by placing a community connector at their locations in Morwell, Churchill and Warragul, and Traralgon. This model allows any of the health services provided by LCHS to refer into the program – widening the scope of those able to access the community connector.
The project is being evaluated by Monash University’s Collaborative Evaluation and Research Group to help determine the success of the pilots, and is informed by a project working group.
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