When an individual visits their doctor’s office complaining of feeling blue, wondering if they’re depressed or whether they’ll ever shake off this sinking feeling, their doctor will look deeper for serious mental-health concerns. But the doctor may also hand over a prescription for an activity that gets the individual out of the house and into the community — maybe guitar or singing lessons, or even a yoga class.

This scenario is becoming more possible in Ontario where a social prescribing program will be piloted in 11 community health centres, funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The Rexdale Community Health Centre in Toronto, which is participating in the program, has opted to offer social and artistic remedies. To begin, it’s been gifted 5,000 passes to the Royal Ontario Museum, each valid for up to four people.

Read: Is loneliness the next employee wellness frontier? 

“Social prescribing is a great way to increase an individual’s awareness of the various community and local health resources available to them for long-term or specialized support, and help extend the level of support they may require for their health concerns,” says Karley Middleton, health and performance consultant at Hub International Ltd. in Winnipeg.

“Employers should be cognizant of this process because it can go hand-in-hand with benefits they are already offering their employees, such as an [employee assistance program] designed to offer only short-term, solution-focused counselling services among other proactive services, such as financial and legal consultations.”

A similar program in the U.K. has been successful, with 25 per cent fewer visits to emergency rooms and doctors, according to Dr. Marie Anne Essam. A study by the Bristol Health and Wellbeing Board found improvements in participants’ anxiety levels, in how they generally felt health-wise and in their quality of life.

Read: What are the ingredients of a successful wellness program?

Since social prescribing could hold a lot of promise for people’s overall well-being, its inclusion in workplace wellness programs could pass those benefits on to organizations. “Employers can maximize the impacts of social prescribing by incorporating links to local support organizations into online wellness resources for employees and their families to assist with positive physical, mental and financial health,” says Middleton.

Should Canada follow in the footsteps of the U.K.’s social prescribing program? And does this type of program have a place in the workplace? Have your say in this week’s online poll here.

The previous poll asked whether it was time for an overhaul of the U.S.’s proxy voting regulations. More than half (56 per cent) of respondents said yes,33 per cent) said y11 per cent said n

Read: Have your say: Should proxy voting firms be more strictly regulated?

Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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