A comparison of social prescribing approaches across twelve high-income countries

Giada Scarpetti*, Hannah Shadowen, Gemma A. Williams, Juliane Winkelmann, Madelon Kroneman, Peter P. Groenewegen, Judith D. De jong, Inês Fronteira, Gonçalo figueiredo Augusto, Sonia Hsiung, Siân Slade, Daniela Rojatz, Daniela Kallayova, Zuzana Katreniakova, Iveta Nagyova, Marika Kylänen, Pia Vracko, Amrita Jesurasa, Zoe Wallace, Carolyn WallaceCaroline Costongs, Andrew J. Barnes, Ewout Van Ginneken

*Corresponding author for this work

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Social prescribing connects patients with community resources to improve their health and well-being. It is gaining momentum globally due to its potential for addressing non-medical causes of illness while building on existing resources and enhancing overall health at a relatively low cost. The COVID-19 pandemic further underscored the need for policy interventions to address health-related social issues such as loneliness and isolation.

This paper presents evidence of the conceptualisation and implementation of social prescribing schemes in twelve countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, England, Finland, Germany, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, the Netherlands, the United States and Wales.

Twelve countries were identified through the Health Systems and Policy Monitor (HSPM) network and the EuroHealthNet Partnership. Information was collected through a twelve open-ended question survey based on a conceptual model inspired by the WHO's Health System Framework.

We found that social prescribing can take different forms, and the scale of implementation also varies significantly. Robust evidence on impact is scarce and highly context-specific, with some indications of cost-effectiveness and positive impact on well-being.

This paper provides insights into social prescribing in various contexts and may guide countries interested in holistically tackling health-related social factors and strengthening community-based care. Policies can support a more seamless integration of social prescribing into existing care, improve collaboration among sectors and training programs for health and social care professionals.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104992
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Policy
Early online date21 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jan 2024


  • social prescribing
  • community referral
  • link worker
  • person-centred care
  • social determinants of health


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