Design For Social Prescribing

The United States of America is undergoing significant demographic, sociocultural, and structural shifts that will require new models of care that account for complex social factors beyond conventional healthcare services. The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare how larger social determinants such as housing, employment, social support structures, mental health, and access to safe areas for physical activity impact individuals’ and communities’ overall health and well-being. As a response, many leaders have adopted a more ambitious agenda on health transformations.

In this context, social prescribing emerges as a growing area of research and practice that aims to connect established health systems with existing community assets by providing a platform for health professionals to prescribe interventions that have not been conventionally considered in medical practice but nevertheless influence people’s health.

Design for Social Prescribing: Bridging Silos for Health Promotion is an ongoing initiative that started at the Design Laboratory at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (D-Lab) in the spring semester of 2022, under the Builder Fellowship Program. In this early phase, the D-Lab collaborated with the University of Florida’s Center for Arts and Medicine and Social Prescribing USA to explore if the design could help expand and accelerate the SP agenda within the US. The project advanced in three phases: understanding context, broadening perceptions, and exploring pathways.

The video below captures the experiences of 40+ participants across diverse sectors and industries leveraging design models to explore pathways for expanding and accelerating the adoption of social prescribing initiatives in the US. Next is a report that outlines learnings generated from activities undertaken during these three phases and presents actions taken towards exploring next steps.