Models of social prescribing to address non‑medical needs in adults: a scoping review

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Background: The health and wellbeing consequences of social determinants of health and health behaviours are well established. This has led to a growing interest in social prescribing, which involves linking people to services and supports in the community and voluntary sectors to address non-medical needs. However, there is considerable variability in approaches to social prescribing with little guidance on how social prescribing could be developed to reflect local health systems and needs. The purpose of this scoping review was to describe the types of social prescribing models used to address non-medical needs to inform co-design and decision-making for social prescribing program developers.

Methods: We searched Ovid MEDLINE(R), CINAHL, Web of Science, Scopus, National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, WHO International Clinical Trial Registry Platform, and ProQuest – Dissertations and Theses for articles and grey literature describing social prescribing programs. Reference lists of literature reviews were also searched. The searches were conducted on 2 August 2021 and yielded 5383 results following removal of duplicates.

Results: 148 documents describing 159 social prescribing programs were included in the review. We describe the contexts in which the programs were delivered, the program target groups and services/supports to which participants were referred, the staff involved in the programs, program funding, and the use of digital systems.

Conclusions: There is significant variability in social prescribing approaches internationally. Social prescribing programs can be summarised as including six planning stages and six program processes. We provide guidance for decision makers regarding what to consider when designing social prescribing programs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number642
Number of pages20
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2023


  • Social prescribing
  • Community referral
  • Social determinants of health
  • Scoping review


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