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Doctors can now issue prescriptions for free visits to the ROM

For all that can be accomplished using modern medicine, healthcare professionals still face enormous challenges in treating patients to the point where can say they feel "well."

Drugs can only do so much, especially when a person is experiencing social isolation, loneliness, low income, barriers to employment or other issues that can further impact their quality of living.

This is the crux of the idea behind "social prescribing"—a growing social wellness movement that is seeing doctors issue their patients an Rx for everything from exercise classes and nature walks to adult choirs and pottery lessons.

Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is currently funding a pilot program to test this approach through the Alliance for Healthier Communities, which represents 107 different "community-governed primary health care organizations" across the province.

The pilot, which started in September of 2018 and will run until December of 2019, aims to connect patients with local, non-clinical services that might supplement (or even come to replace) their medical and pharmaceutical treatments.

"In the U.K., social prescribing shows promising results in achieving positive outcomes for clients, healthcare providers, and communities overall," writes the Alliance on its website. "Clients have improved mental health, are less isolated or lonely, and are more physically active."

Currently, the project is being run out of 11 different community health centres across Ontario, two of them in Toronto. Anyone who lives in and around the city may soon be able to benefit from this initiative, however, thanks to the Royal Ontario Museum.

The ROM's Community Access Network has partnered with the Alliance to pilot its own Social Prescription Program beginning in January of 2019.

This non-medicinal, therapeutic service will "enable thousands of people from across the province to visit the Museum at no cost," according to an announcement from the ROM on Thursday.

A total of 5,000 passes (each valid for 4 people) will be issued throughout the year to those "with a referral from associated ROMCAN healthcare, community or social service professionals."

As of next month, 20 different ROMCAN associate providers will be running the program, including the Rexdale Community Healthcare Centre, which helped the Museum shape its pilot.

It is the ROM's hope that this new Social Prescription Program can eventually be rolled out to all of its community partners, which number in the hundreds and include such organizations as the Alzheimer's Society of Toronto, CAMH, Autism Ontario and Sick Kids.

Lead photo by

John O'Sullivan


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