IT COULD be just what the doctor orders – walking and cycling on prescription is coming to Solihull.
And it just might be the perfect tonic to make people not only feel better but also make new friends and help combat climate change into the bargain.
The ‘social prescribing’ initiative comes after a successful pilot programme in Birmingham showed improvements in participants’ physical and mental health.
Now the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has been handed £98,000 by the Department for Transport to develop a plan to deliver a three-year social prescribing pilot across not only Solihull but the rest of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton.
Social prescribing is designed to tackle health inequality by offering patients with certain health conditions living in disadvantaged communities free-to-access cycling and walking activities.
A successful initial pilot of the scheme was delivered in Birmingham and the Black Country last summer and saw 79 GPs help more than 560 patients through targeted engagement and support to meet their individual needs.
The latest funding marks the next step to deliver exercise on prescription across the entire West Midlands.
“A programme like this will not only create opportunities for people to travel actively, build confidence and improve their wellbeing, it will also help connect people to the new walking and cycling routes which will be delivered across the region this year,” said Councillor Izzi Seccombe, WMCA’s Wellbeing Board chair and leader of Warwickshire County Council.
When available, patients will be able to join walking or cycling groups at their local practice or community and will be able to connect with others, get active and build confidence.
Adam Tranter, West Midlands Cycling and Walking Commissioner, said: “I’m really pleased the region has this opportunity to show it can lead the way in innovative programmes to improve our mental and physical health.
“Cycling and walking can be transformative to people’s health – and when people lead active lives, it has the potential to reduce strain on our NHS.”
The report findings are due to be completed in spring 2022 and will measure results compared to traditional medical interventions.