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New Waterford service reducing isolation and health inequality

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Social Prescribing being promoted by HSE in Waterford City and County

Members of Waterford Social Prescribing Steering Group at the All-Ireland Network of Social Prescribing Conference

Social prescribing is a way of linking people with non-medical sources of support within their community to improve physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.

The HSE/South East Community Healthcare (SECH) welcomes the expansion of the social prescribing service in Waterford and would like to see it extended to counties Carlow, Kilkenny, South Tipperary and Wexford as a means of connecting clients of its services to supports in the community.

The Waterford social prescribing steering group is chaired by and includes staff from SECH and community partners. Social prescribing enables healthcare professionals to refer patients to a social prescribing coordinator. The coordinator works with individuals to connect them with activities and resources in the community such as relaxation, cookery, exercise, arts, gardening, education, volunteering and debt relief. Such prescriptions in Waterford have included linking in with a self-esteem course, a youth arts group, men’s cookery group, Pieta House, the Sports Partnership, dog handling training, the Solas Cancer Support Centre, dance classes, yoga, a women’s group and to the National Learning Network.     

Social prescribing expands the range of options available to health professionals to support people in improving their health in a way that cannot be met by a health service response alone. It addresses people’s needs in a holistic way that allows them take greater control over their own health. Research in Ireland and the UK points to social prescribing having an effect of reducing healthcare costs and easing pressures on GP clinics, in addition to benefits for the individual.

Last week, SECH participated in the annual All-Ireland Network of Social Prescribing Conference in Waterford. The occasion included an address by the Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly and brought together a range of decision makers from health and community organisations, health funders, policy makers, and researchers to identify how to mainstream social prescribing and make it available to everyone in their local community. 

The Sacred Heart Family Resource Centre in Waterford, who has been to the fore in developing social prescribing locally, was involved in hosting the conference, which also had a significant input from Waterford City and County Council.  

“From easing loneliness to improving quality of life, we are gathering stories all the time of how peoples’ lives have been improved by social prescribing," said SECH health promotion and improvement office's Susan Scully. 

"Waterford, through the co-operation between the HSE and the Sacred Heart Family Resource Centre, has been active in the area and we are pleased that it is one of several projects nationwide that will be funded by the Sláintecare Integration Fund to continue this work and to expand from Waterford city to other parts of the county. We look forward to social prescribing contributing to a reduction in isolation and health inequality.”