Image for Just what the doctor ordered: five unusual social prescribing projects

Just what the doctor ordered: five unusual social prescribing projects

Doctors are increasingly prescribing activities to help boost public health. Here are some of the more unusual prescriptions

Doctors are increasingly prescribing activities to help boost public health. Here are some of the more unusual prescriptions

Have you heard the one about comedy classes for people with trauma? Reported on last week by Positive News, the standup sessions have proven so successful that they are now being prescribed to people who are at risk of suicide. 

Here are five more unusual social prescriptions.

1. Bicycle-powered Shakespeare

The HandleBards are cycling actors who carry all of their sets, props and costumes on the back of their bikes. In 2021, they cycled into Sheffield to offer socially prescribed theatre, at the invitation of community charity Heeley Trust.

Their offer included professional Shakespeare performances, participatory storytelling experiences and drama-based confidence-building workshops. 

Image: Shaun Jackson/HandleBards 

Social prescribing
2. Mini gigs

The Song Surgery project prescribes classical songs to “satisfy, inspire and uplift”, in response to the listener’s mood or requested subject matter.

Launched in 2019 and spearheaded by opera singer Bibi Heal (pictured), recent events have included sold-out ‘mini gigs’ in central London, family concerts in private houses and a session that combined yin yoga with music at Skipton town hall, Yorkshire. 

Image: Paul Mitchell 

3. Prescription paddleboarding

People in Nottingham may soon be prescribed a paddleboarding session or a spot of canalside gardening. A project designed to use the Nottingham and Beeston Canal to help people tackle mental and physical health challenges has been awarded £50,000 from the Thriving Communities Fund. Canoe sessions, photography courses, cookery classes and communal meals are all on the menu. 

Image: Canal & River Trust

Social prescribing
4. Money advice

Offering money advice to help people’s health may seem a mismatch, but research suggests a “reciprocal relationship” between financial health and long-term health.

Now, GPs can prescribe financial advice sessions for patients with such conditions in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark. Some 500 people have already been helped to claim benefits, get grants and deal with debts.

The groups behind the Financial Shield scheme, Impact on Urban Health and the Centre for Responsible Credit, said healthcare policy should take a “much wider” view of public health. 

Image: Fabian

5. Forest bathing

A scheme that has been joined by a recent surge of ‘green social prescribing’ projects, Branching Out has happened every year since 2007.

In the project, run by Forestry Commission Scotland, adults with mental health challenges take part in activities including health walks, tai chi, bird box construction, lighting fires, building shelters and environmental art, such as photography and willow sculptures.

“I wasn’t an outdoor person,” said one participant. “I’d decided I’d give it a week or so and I absolutely loved it. And then the rest of it, I absolutely adored the course.” 

Image: Fineas Anton
Main image: HandleBards

Related articles

Help us break the bad news bias

Positive News is uplifting more readers than ever. 

But as a small, independent publisher, the cost of living crisis is hitting us hard. For our journalism to continue benefiting as many people as possible, we need your help.

If you value what we do as the world’s most inspiring news source, and you can afford to, please consider making a regular or one-off contribution as a Positive News supporter.

We need 1,000 readers to contribute just £3 per month, to help us keep our journalism available to everyone, while showing the media industry that good news matters.