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Social Prescribing presents an opportunity for health stores

The role of local health food shops in NHS England’s Social Prescribing network has been highlighted at the Health Food Institute’s anniversary lecture and awards event in London.

Keynote speaker Dr Michael Dixon, National Clinical Lead for Social Prescription, explained the new appointment of so-called ‘Link Workers’ who provide a local hub for Social Prescribing.

Social Prescribing is a way for local agencies to refer people to Link Workers who take an holistic approach to people’s health and wellbeing, thus reducing the burden on Britain’s stretched GPs.

Link Workers connect people to community groups and statutory services for practical and emotional support. These positions have only existed for the past year and some areas are still recruiting to fill the salaried positions as well as volunteer roles. The number of Link Workers is expected to triple in the coming 18 months.

Dr Dixon suggested that health food stores connect with local Link Workers to ensure they are regularly signposted to for dietary and supplemental advice.

Viridian MD Cheryl Thallon, who sits on both the HFI and NAHS councils, told Better Retailing Magazine that this is an opportunity for improved community connection.

“By connecting and building a relationship with local Link Workers, health food stores may develop a regular stream of clients recommended to their store,” she said.

“Store owners and managers have a blank canvas to make this happen. They can plough their own field within reason. It’s all happening incredibly fast.”

A national Link Worker conference was taking place this week, while the International Social Prescribing Network Conference takes place at the University of Westminster in London on July 11 - 12.

A useful explanation of Social Prescribing can be found on the Healthy London website. The NHS England outline can be found here.

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