New playbook shows how social prescribing can help to reverse global decline in physical activity by connecting us to activities in our area 

  • The Olympics has showcased the benefits of teamwork, determination and feeling connected, and well as to our health and wellbeing – inspiring nations around the world to get involved 
  • However, Sport England’s 2019-20 Active Lives Adults survey showed that higher socio-economic groups are more likely to be active than lower socio-economic groups. 
  • Recent Lancet research suggests that global physical activity is in dangerous decline.  
  • Social prescribing links people to a range of activities in the community, such as sports clubs, culture and heritage, nature and green spaces, and financial wellbeing 
  • Social Prescribing Global Alliance’s playbook provides examples of how this is happening in communities, helping other countries adopt this approach across the world  
  • Part of a wider global revolution in wellbeing – one that enables and empowers individuals within local communities to co-design their care and tailor it to their individual needs. 

The Olympics reminded people of the benefits of getting involved in sport – teamwork, determination, feeling connected to other people, as well as improvements to our physical and mental wellbeing.  

Many will be inspired to explore how they can do more exercise as a result – but they may not have the means to engage. Sport England’s 2019-20 Active Lives Adults survey showed that higher socio-economic groups are more likely to be active than lower socio-economic groups. Financial worries, health fears and caring responsibilities have made it harder, and research SportEngland carried out with Savanta ComRes in July 2021 also revealed emotional barrier – with a third of adults saying they are too tired, and a quarter say they aren’t fit enough. Lancet research recently suggested that global physical activity is in dangerous decline.  

That’s where social prescribing comes in. Social prescribing, a growing movement in the UK and abroad, offers a way that people can be connected to activities in their community, such as sport, such as through a social prescribing link worker or other healthcare professional based in a GP practice. Link workers have time to build trusting relationships, understand what truly matters to the person, create a shared action plan and introduce people to community support. 

For instance, Robin Hood Health Foundation Prescribe to Thrive Partnership will use tailored social prescribing to reach 100 residents to improve physical and mental health and wellbeing. Open water swimming, cycling, cooking and walking football are all on the agenda for carers groups in Portsmouth, through The YOU Trust Thriving Coastal Communities. Culture Coventry – Go Connect and Go Wellbeing brings together expertise in health, physical activity, culture, and the voluntary sector creating a support system for 1200 people.  

The Global Social Prescribing Alliance (GSPA) new playbook explores how social prescribing can help people to get moving and connect with their communities. It provides a guide and advice on how this approach can be adopted, inspiring new champions of health and wellbeing. Its focus is on what matters to individuals – a holistic view of one’s needs and strengths.  

It’s not only physical wellbeing that is being addressed. Alongside physical activity, social prescribing focuses on arts, culture and heritage, nature and green spaces, and financial wellbeing. 

By sharing best practices and opportunities for improving health and wellbeing worldwide, it is hoped that other nationals will be encouraged to get involved – part of a global revolution in wellbeing. The Playbook shares expert guidance on the best health and wellbeing practices and develops the vision set out by global leaders in 2015 at the UN General Assembly, when the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were first announced. 

James Sanderson, Chief Executive of the National Academy for Social Prescribing commented: 

“Social prescribing has the power to put health back at the centre of our communities. Through this social prescribing global playbook, we hope to empower and enable partners across the world to implement principles of good social prescribing within their local communities, to tackle health inequalities and keep people healthy and active over the years”.  

Gareth Presch, CEO, World Health Innovation Summit, Expert SDG3/4 UNGSII, Member of Pope Francis COVID19 Vatican Commission – Group 2 Looking to the Future says: 

“The playbook provides us with opportunities to share best practice, knowledge and wisdom. It gives us the opportunity to support our staff with the tools to help them deliver high-quality patient centred care through shared learning and co-designing solutions that improve people’s quality of life. It is important that we prepare for the future of healthcare (preventing disease, promoting good health & wellbeing, creating societal value) while implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. All of this can be achieved by us working together.”  

Find out more about the playbook and the Alliance’s work here.