A bold and innovative new initiative is set to change the way we think about loneliness and community connection.

HBNC’s Connecting Communities Social Prescription Pilot - a first-of-its-kind service for the Wide Bay region - aims to support and empower every person to connect, participate, contribute and thrive in our community.

Based on models developed in the UK, social prescription aims to improve health outcomes by addressing the issues of social isolation and loneliness within our community.

The term ‘social prescribing’ is listed as one of the 10 high-impact actions in the General Practice Forward View (NHS England 2016) and is a non-medical option used by health professionals when a person has needs related to socio-economic and psychosocial issues.

Social prescribing is an opportunity to implement a sustained, structural change to how a person moves between professional sectors and into their community.

The Connecting Communities Social Prescription Pilot program will enable health care professionals to refer patients to a link worker, to co-design a non-clinical social prescription approach to improving their health and wellbeing.

Connecting Communities, funded by the Queensland Government’s Communities Innovation Fund, will explore and address factors including socio-economic challenges, distance from family and friends, public transport access, language barriers, information insecurity and social challenges.

Tanya Stevenson, HBNC CEO, said this new initiative was indicative of the organisation’s commitment to evolve its services and address emerging community challenges.

“We believe that addressing underlying issues to improve connection will enhance the long-term health and happiness of individuals and overall wellbeing of the community in turn reducing impacts on the overburdened health and mental health services,” Tanya said.

How the program will help

Community members will be able to seek support to access activities, groups or other programs with the aim of providing long-term friendship, engagement and purpose. Using a community-based social prescription framework, community members can join the program through self-referral or via another service such as a medical practitioner, psychologist or allied health professional.

A Link Support Volunteer will work closely with participants to address any barriers to engagement and identify the activities or groups most likely to match with participants’ needs and desires.

The Link Support volunteer may accompany the participant to a number of the activity sessions to reduce the fear and overwhelm often associated with new environments.

To find out more about this program, please visit: www.hbnc.com.au

Understanding the health needs

According to a Parliamentary Inquiry, social isolation and loneliness can lead to illness of the body and mind that is equal to 15 cigarettes per day.

When we are connected, our potential to renew and improve local health and economic outcomes grows.

The new Connecting Communities Social Prescription Pilot Program is critical in supporting the Queensland Government’s response to social isolation and loneliness in our state. It is part of the concrete and targeted action they are taking to achieve a positive future vision for Queensland.