“It’s very important to support the living conditions of people and the kind of behaviour that they follow and the lifestyle that they need in the community.”
To address such social factors, new skill sets are required, Assoc Prof Lee said at the inaugural Asia Pacific Social Prescribing Conference.
To this end, SingHealth has introduced wellbeing coordinators, who are non-clinical staff embedded in clinical teams to identify and support patients facing social risk factors that may affect their health outcomes.
The social prescribing programme has benefitted almost 1,000 patients.
TRAINING MORE IN SOCIAL PRESCRIBING
The cluster also aims to train 600 health and community care workers yearly through a new arm, the SingHealth Community Hospitals Office of Learning.
It will boost social prescribing efforts, for example, through an educational programme it has created with Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
The Health and Social Care Coordinator Course, which is open to people from different walks of life, equips students with skills and knowledge to support social prescribing and to work in multi-disciplinary teams of social and healthcare professionals.
One of the course attendees is Ms Caral Goh, who is now a part-time patient activity coordinator at Sengkang Community Hospital.
Before that, the former editor of a meditation and health magazine thought engaging with patients seemed like a pastime, she said. After attending the course, she learnt the purpose of such activities under the concept of social prescribing.
“I learned to actively engage, actively listen to build trust with patients, so that we can find out their social determinants of health. This will take a lot of trust,” she said.
SingHealth will also involve family physicians in upcoming workshops on the topic.
There are other ongoing efforts to spread the concept of social prescribing. For example, it was introduced into Duke-NUS Medical School’s curriculum this year.
IMPORTANCE OF SOCIAL FACTORS
Speaking at the conference organised by SingHealth and SingHealth Community Hospitals, Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration Desmond Lee said that as Singapore shifts towards preventive health, social factors, “which are sometimes not easy to put our arms around”, have to be addressed.
Individuals and families that have the most complex needs often face interlocking challenges that involve various issues including on the social, health, and family fronts, he noted.