24th January 2017

Enhanced Social Prescribing - a game changer for diabetes prevention?

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Pictured: Dr. Marcello Bertotti

As we implement the social prescribing model of care in the United Arab Emirates, we have invited Dr Marcello Bertotti to give his expert opinion on the transformation that social prescribing can bring to diabetes prevention in the region.

Dr Marcello Bertotti Institute for Health and Human Development (IHHD), University of East London

Some of the key global health priorities include diabetes and mental illness. These are currently tackled via clinical treatment and through the use of medication. However, alongside this, non-clinical pathways may be developed. These focus on making use of health assets such as increasing social networks of support, and involving the third and voluntary sector in the delivery of health care.

Social prescribing is one of these healthcare pathways. "it enables healthcare professionals to refer patients to a link worker who co-design a non-clinical social prescription to improve their health and well-being" (See Social Prescribing Network, p.19 of the report). 

Social prescribing has the following innovative features:
- It releases pressure in primary care by enabling healthcare teams to refer patients to a health educator or also commonly known as a link worker, an individual with non-clinical training who has particular skills in communicating with people.
- It creates patient centred care by providing an opportunity for the patient to explore their needs and aspirations with a health educator/link worker who has more time than a doctor.
- It unlocks the potential of community based providers in the delivery of health care services and better connects all stakeholders in the prevention and better management of chronic conditions.
- It is useful in developing preventative strategies with for example those groups in the population at risk of diabetes. It works alongside clinical treatment by providing an alternative form of treatment, based on activation, and stimulating social networks.

Some of the challenges surrounding the implementation of effective social prescribing programmes, which are overcome by Elemental’s enhanced social prescribing software, include:
- The difficulty in scaling up the model to address multiple conditions and risks
- and the need for constant measurement and evaluation against patient outcomes. 

Elemental Software is about to roll out the first social prescribing programme in the United Arab Emirates region. Using specialist technology Elemental will connect key stakeholders in diabetes prevention to support patients most at risk, in making better lifestyle choices, enhancing quality of life and reducing health risks and demand on health services’. 

Institute for Health and Human Development work on social prescribing. Dr Marcello Bertotti and Caroline Frostick at the Institute for Health and Human Development (IHHD), University of East London have developed significant expertise in the design and evaluation of social prescribing pathways with work undertaken in the boroughs of Hackney, Newham and Waltham Forest (London, UK). IHHD contributed to the development of national guidelines on social prescribing and are steering group members of the social prescribing network, a national network acting as a focal point for over 500 individuals involved in the development of social prescribing. Dr Bertotti and Ms Frostick have written various reports, published journal articles and produced a video on social prescribing [link to video].


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Creating more physically active and socially engaged communities.