How social prescribing to a gardening project helps to grow health in Dorset – Livability

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How social prescribing to a gardening project helps to grow health in Dorset

On social prescribing day, we take a moment to consider its importance and celebrate a gardening project that’s growing a great crop of flowers – and health too.

What is social prescribing?

The NHS defines social prescribing as a type of personalised care, meaning people have choice and control over the way their care is planned and delivered, based on ‘what matters’ to them and their individual strengths and needs.

This way of working is major shift in how people, professionals and the health care system interact together, putting the person at the centre of their care and their community.

How does social prescribing work?

The idea behind social prescribing is that people are referred to a link worker. These workers connect people to groups and activities out in the community that can offer support.

“There is emerging evidence that social prescribing can lead to a range of positive health and wellbeing outcomes for people, such as improved quality of life and emotional wellbeing”1

What does social prescribing look like at Livability? Growing Wellbeing at the Flourish Project

Livability is the disability charity that sees real value in connecting people with community experiences and networks of support. Many of our services across the country are supporting people both physically and mentally in community based activities as a way of minimising the risks of isolation.

Flourish is one of the services that works in this way, based at our wellbeing discovery centre in Dorset – Livability Holton Lee. An ecotherapy project, it supports a number of people that have been referred to the programme for its wellbeing benefits.

The project involves participants in gardening and conservation, working together in the beautiful grounds of the centre. People learn new skills, build confidence, make new friends and have fun.

Working with qualified ecotherapists, Flourish supports around 60 people per week to:

  • Develop valuable life skills
  • Become more physically active
  • Find a sense of achievement
  • Build self-confidence and motivation
  • Enjoy new friendships

Growing awareness for the health benefits of nature-based activities

Research has found strong links between nature and the improvement of mental health and wellbeing.

A recent report published by the Public Health Community Fellowship explored the subject of tackling loneliness in the community through nature-based activities. It featured Livability’s Flourish project in its findings which showed:

  • 91% of participants either agreed or strongly agreed they felt sociable and enjoyed life overall since joining the activity.
  • 82% of participants either agreed or strongly agreed they felt physically healthy since joining the flourish ecotherapy group.

The report also looked at whether nature-based activities could be used as a community resource by GPs to tackle loneliness in Dorset. Findings showed that there is further to go on raising GP awareness.

  • None of the participants using Flourish had been referred to the active by their GP.

Report writer Sarah Osafo (a GP specialist trainee) says: “More emphasis needs to be placed on how health professionals can help tackle the detrimental effect it [isolation] is having on health.”

There is a clear benefit to health and welling by being involved in nature activities and it can help with tackling loneliness. However more needs to be done to raise awareness amongst GPs of the nature activities, and other in local areas and the benefits.

  • Of the 34 GPs surveyed – none had referred a patient to nature-based activities, but encouragingly 91% agreed it would be something they would consider in the future.

Find out more about Flourish at Livability’s Holton Lee centre here.

1 Dayson, C. and Bashir, N. (2014), The social and economic impact of the Rotherham Social Prescribing Pilot. Sheffield: Sheffield Hallam University: https://www4.shu.ac.uk/research/cresr/sites/shu.ac.uk/files/social-economic-impact-rotherham.pdf

The report: Tackling Loneliness in the Community thorugh Nature-based Activities, Public Health Community Fellowship 2018, Sarah Osafo (MBChB) – GP Specialist Trainee – Wessex Deanery Poole.

Find out more about Flourish

"I feel much more connected to other people because we've all got something in common beig here"


Flourish participant

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