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The Latrobe Health Assembly is investigating the development of a social prescribing model, designed to meet the needs of Latrobe City residents.

People present to a GP’s clinic for several different reasons, not all of which are clinical. Many individuals present to their GP’s with health issues that are essentially a social or welfare problem. In these cases, a GP may only have a limited and short-term impact with traditional clinical means.

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 referred to as community referral, green prescribing or non-medical prescribing, social prescribing links patients with non-medical supports in the community. GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals can refer people, whose health or mental health is affected by non-medical factors such as housing, financial stress, health literacy, loneliness or social exclusion, to a range of community services that can support these issues. Social prescribing is a way to address social determinants and support individuals to take greater control of their own health.

The “prescriptions” or activities can be provided by voluntary and community sector organisations. Examples include volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice, luncheon clubs, walking and reading groups, literacy classes, support with housing, employment, debt and legal advice, cooking classes, exercise programs, and many more.

The Social Prescribing project has entered the planning stage of the second phase of the project. The first phase saw a consultant from Larter Consulting produce a feasibility report that presented a number of recommendations about what a Social Prescribing model might look like for Latrobe Valley. The results of the feasibility study were presented back to the working group who made some alterations to the suggested model. A business case was composed to include the details of a final Social Prescribing model for the Latrobe Valley and was presented and accepted by the Latrobe Health Assembly Executive Board.

The project working group has reconvened and is now working through the fine points of the project along with developing connections with potential organisations that might host a dedicated worker and service providers that would like to be involved when patient referrals commence. The project has received support from Churchill Neighbourhood House and we are currently in discussions with a local GP clinic.

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