PLANS to put walking and cycling on prescription for people across the region is currently in the works.
The move follows the successful launch of the scheme in Birmingham and the Black Country following a pilot programme which engaged with GPs to raise awareness of the benefits of walking and cycling in increasing activity.
Patients were also signposted into opportunities to be active, via free bikes on prescription and led rides, through the Sport England funded Active Communities programme.
Called ‘social prescribing’ it aims to reduce health inequality and make active lifestyles more attractive to people by offering free-to-access cycling and walking activities, such as walking groups, free bikes and cycle training.
Working with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), The Active Wellbeing Society (TAWS) launched the programme in the Birmingham in response to a growing need to find new and innovative ways of tackling key health issues including obesity, poor health, inactivity and loneliness.
TAWS teamed up with eight surgeries and health centres in key areas of Birmingham to identify and support patients by referring them to a range of non-clinical activities to combat physical or mental health issues. Due to early success, further funding has been sought to roll out the programme to more areas.
In the city the programme aims to deliver over 150 social prescribing services, using staff to working with communities to design the activities based on local need.
Leila Yafai, a senior social prescribing link worker, said: “Having witnessed the isolation and social, physical and mental impacts of the pandemic, social prescribing is a helping hand.”
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands said: “The project demonstrates our commitment to improving health and wellbeing in the region for all people as we emerge from the Covid 19 pandemic.
“People-powered health initiatives where people are supported to make positive steps for themselves without traditional medical interventions, such as by cycling and walking, can have incredibly positive outcomes.”
A bid is currently with the Department for Transport for additional funding to roll-out the programme across the whole of the West Midlands, making it among the first regions to adopt this approach.