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Growing crises require creative disruption: How Social Prescribing Link Workers Can Help Reduce Health Inequalities

Christiana Melam

By its very nature, social prescribing is a mechanism meant to empower and enable. The main driver of the social prescribing link worker model is the acknowledgment that the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities are often dictated by a range of environmental and socio-economic factors. Social prescribing is all about holistic wellbeing and placing control of health with individuals, so they can save themselves. Social prescribing link workers play a critical role in helping to reduce inequalities.

  • Health inequalities
  • Person-centred care


The coproduced theme of this year’s conference is The Creative Disruptors Reducing Inequalities & Powering Up Integrated Care reflects the vital role Social Prescribing Link Workers [SPLWs] play in our society. This theme highlights the need to bring the focus to the valuable role of co-production, the importance of collaboration, and the need to empower local communities.

Our 2021 Link Worker Day awards celebrate Social Prescribing Link Workers and recognise all those who have made outstanding progress in disrupting health inequalities.

Outside Edge Theatre

#LinkWorkerDay2021 Awards Winner for Community Group of the year, Outside Edge Theatre, exemplifies the spirit of creative disruption, leveraging arts and community engagement to provide support to those struggling with addiction working closely with Social Prescribing Link Workers. Their comprehensive programme of arts support worked innovatively with social prescribing partners, created a solid body of evidence for the value of the arts in empowering people to find renewed meaning and purpose.

The Denby Dale Centre whose work was Highly Commended at the awards, showcases innovation and creativity to adapt and respond to changing community needs.

360° care

With ever-increasing NHS workforce pressures, rising mental health needs increased public demand for 360° care, and health inequality crises, I believe it is time to do more to empower SPLWs. Now more than ever, we need to ensure that every social prescribing programme has a capacity-building fund, to fill in the gaps, and to unleash community creativity.

Ultimately, health care is not about responding to ill health but instead addressing and preventing drivers like social injustice and health inequalities. It is about bottom-up approaches that are tailored to localities. It is about communities working together because they understand their needs the best. And most of all it is about empowering individuals to be the driving force to themselves.

Community integration and intelligence

SPLWs success lies in their knowledge and affinity to the communities they serve. We saw this during the COVID-19 pandemic, with SPLWs showcasing how uniquely placed they are to work proactively with vulnerable people and working closely with community assets and leaders who responded to community needs quicker than some statutory establishments. We continue to see this as communities adapt to the lasting impact of the pandemic.

SPLWs’ engagement in their communities, providing space for people to speak to them on a broad range of issues gives the SPLW a ground-level understanding of the person’s health and needs. I believe this is valuable intelligence that can help to identify the right services and support that the community needs, gaps in provision, or barriers to access.

The role of Social Prescribing Link workers in reducing Health Inequalities guide, helpfully provide clarity and helpfully guide Social Prescribing Link Workers, employers, commissioners, and Health Inequalities strategies.