Project to explore ‘social prescribing’ in Chelmsford

Published: 14 March 2024 at 13:28

A man painting on an easel

Research partnership will look at how people can benefit from cultural opportunities

A new research project will explore how cultural activities could help improve the health and wellbeing of people in Chelmsford.

The research, a new collaboration between Culture Chelmsford, Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and Chelmsford Council for Voluntary Service (Chelmsford CVS), will explore what social prescribing currently looks like in Chelmsford and identify where there are gaps in connecting it with culture to support health and wellbeing.

Social prescribing is when a health service signposts an individual to a cultural or social organisation that can assist with their health or wellbeing. 

The research, announced on National Social Prescribing Day 2024 (Thursday, 14 March), aims to explore whether the existing social prescribing offer provides the opportunities for linking people in the city with their local community and cultural organisations. The research is steered by a working group and will involve talking to adults and young people who have experience of a range of health challenges, as well as health professionals, social prescribers, and arts and culture providers in Chelmsford.

The findings of the study will help design pilot projects, with the aim of expanding the culture and health social prescribing offer in Chelmsford.

The research is being funded by Chelmsford City Council through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and is part of the Huddles programme for the National Centre for Creative Health (NCCH).

Claire Gevaux, Chief Executive of Culture Chelmsford, said:

“We have all experienced the uplifting feeling when hearing our favourite song, singing along to lyrics that help make sense of our lives. Culture on prescription should be an opportunity that everyone in Chelmsford can access. 

“We believe that taking part in heritage, art, singing, dancing, crafts or reading can be used to prevent and treat mental and physical wellbeing as well as relieving the pressure on our healthcare system. 

“We’re delighted to be working with such a stellar list of partners on this action research project which is co-developed with our local communities. We hope that the outcome of this study creates life changing opportunities for everyone in Chelmsford to experience the value of cultural social prescribing.”

Research Fellow at ARU Dr Anna Dadswell, who is leading the research, said:

“Previous studies have shown us how culture is linked to people’s wellbeing, but it is important to understand what is already happening in Chelmsford and how this could be developed. 

“The partnerships established through this project will help us to hear from a range of different perspectives and shape recommendations for the development of culture and health provision, as well as approaches to social prescribing that respond to what people in Chelmsford really need.”

Sally Medd, Volunteer Centre and Projects Manager for Chelmsford CVS, said:

“Social prescribers play a transformative role in providing individualised care for people’s physical and mental health. These social interventions can have a profound difference to people's lives by helping them identify what matters most to them and connecting them with a range of impactful and diverse services.

“This research presents an exciting opportunity to expand Chelmsford prescribers’ toolkit of referral options, and to emphasise that a lack of opportunity to participate in culture and creativity is an important social detriment of health.

“As a community development organisation, we welcome this opportunity to work in partnership to encourage and grow local projects, and to further contribute to a richer, more connected community.”

Cllr Rose Moore, Cabinet Member for a Greener and Safer Chelmsford, Chelmsford City Council, said:

“Chelmsford City Council is delighted to be a key partner in this worthwhile project. As more evidence emerges to show how social prescribing can transform lives, this research conducted by ARU will be invaluable in revealing how we can better utilise and strengthen existing community structures to create a healthier and more connected Chelmsford.

“With an ageing population and continued challenges for our healthcare systems, it’s more important than ever that we explore how innovative approaches such as cultural social prescribing can alleviate and even prevent some of the issues of loneliness, low mental health, and social isolation across our district.”