University of Tasmania

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'An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure': Proposal for a Social Prescribing Strategy for Obesity Prevention and Improvement in Health and Well-being

Background: Social and behavioral determinants of health are increasingly recognized as central to effective person-centered intervention in clinical practice, disease management, and public health. Accordingly, social prescribing (SP) has received increased attention in recent times. The rampant global prevalence of obesity indicates that the customary, reductionistic, and disease-oriented biomedical approach to health service delivery is inadequate/ineffective at arresting the spread and mitigating the damaging consequences of the condition. There is an urgent need to shift the focus from reactive downstream disease-based treatments to more proactive, upstream, preventive action. In essence, this requires more effort to affect the paradigm shift from the traditional "biomedical approach of care" to a "biopsychosocial model" required to arrest the increasing prevalence of obesity. To this end, an SP approach, anchored in systems thinking, could be an effective means of moderating prevalence and consequences of obesity at a community level.

Objective: The proposed SP intervention has the following three key objectives: (1) build a sustainable program for Circular Head based on SP, peer education, and health screening to minimize the incidence of obesity and related lifestyle diseases; (2) increase service and workforce connectivity and collaboration and initiate the introduction of new services and activities for obesity prevention and community health promotion; and (3) enhance health and well-being and minimize preventable adverse health outcomes of obesity and related lifestyle diseases through enhancement of food literacy and better nutrition, enhancement of physical literacy and habitual personal activity levels, and improvement of mental health, community connectedness, and reduction of social isolation.

Methods: This paper describes a prospective SP strategy aimed at obesity prevention in Circular Head, a local government area in Northwest (NW) Tasmania. SP is a prominent strategy used in the Critical Age Periods Impacting the Trajectory of Obesogenic Lifestyles Project, which is an initiative based in NW Tasmania focused on assessing obesity prevention capacity. A social prescription model that facilitates the linkage of primary health screening with essential health care, education, and community resources through a dedicated "navigator" will be implemented. Four interlinked work packages will be implemented as part of the initial plan with each either building on existing resources or developing new initiatives.

Results: A multimethod approach to triangulate insights from quantitative and qualitative research that enables the assessment of impact on individuals, community groups, and the health care system will be implemented within the initial pilot phase of the project.

Conclusions: Literature is replete with rhetoric advocating complex system approaches to curtail obesity. However, real-life examples of whole-of-systems interventions operationalized in ways that generate relevant evidence or effective policies are rare. The diverse approach for primary prevention of obesity-related lifestyle diseases and strategies for improvement of health and well-being described in this instance will contribute toward closing this evidence gap.


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JMIR Research Protocols






School of Health Sciences


JMIR Publications

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Prevention of human diseases and conditions

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