The opportunities for Social Prescribing in the Metaverse are endless and before we dive into it, let me give you a detailed description of what it is.
Authentic Social Prescribing
Authentic Social Prescribing is a personal intervention. Each of us is unique in our strengths, challenges, background, circumstances, and opportunities. It offers assistance and empowerment which is personal and unique to us, in the hope of making a relevant and sustainable difference.
Signposting is a term used for simply giving information regarding possible, and usually generic, assistance. It will be useful for some, but Social Prescribing goes further.
Social Prescribing is transformational: it can facilitate a new beginning, on a journey from a difficult, restrictive, or oppressive place to a new mindset and changed circumstances. This requires a trusting relationship, mentoring, coaching, and collaboration between the Link Worker, community agents, the patient, their family, and their carers uniquely tailored to enable a personal plan to make the transformational journey.
SP creates a sense of hope, possibilities, motivation, and belief. It must enable lasting change. The personalized plan, co-produced between the person and their link worker, is devised and worked on in a manner that encourages belief in a better future, gives tools and tactics to deal with negative attitudes which may have previously sabotaged personal progress, the person becomes motivated, tenacious and determined to continue in this new direction.
This will allow their health to go from strength to strength and their circumstances to continue to improve. As a result, they will develop their own resilience for overcoming problems in the future.
Social Prescribing Schemes
Social Prescribing schemes have been springing up especially in the past five to ten years; though some may have been running for longer. Communities have historically been a place where people can find help, and the concept of social prescribing links individuals and organizations with the resources available.
Schemes have sometimes been started by voluntary organizations or have sometimes been commissioned by statutory services such as local government, social care or the NHS. The principle is that a scheme hosts or collaborates closely with the Link Workers, and enables them to understand and appropriate the resources in their local community. The SP scheme and their Link Workers develop local intelligence and relationships which they can use to help their patients. This includes key advice across all the social health aspects, knowledge of financial grants and equipment available.
Knowledge of a wide variety of relevant community-based group organizations builds the SP Link Workers’ skills and intuition, discerning which resources may be the perfect fit for their patients.
Social Determinants of Health
Social determinants of health are those issues that would not necessarily appear in a clinical medical record. They include those personal and circumstantial aspects of life which are not assigned a medical diagnosis but which will have an impact on whole well-being. It includes housing, education, sanitation, overcrowding, deprivation, employment & unemployment, different aspects of poverty, education poverty, language situation, dyslexia and not being able to speak the local language. Some of these problems are generational.
Being a carer, having a bereavement or an unplanned change in personal circumstances can also affect health in its wider sense. The softer mental health issues such as anxiety and social phobias can also be considered among these issues. Many different life experiences can crush resilience and the ability to solve personal problems. Social Prescribing and a Link Worker can give empowering support. Social health determinants frequently occur as a multiplicity of interdependent problems, making it hard for people to find their way out through them.
These social determinants are best helped with SP as a Link Worker can unravel a personal jigsaw and identify the particular aspects which are impeding progress.
Metaverse Social Prescibing
Now that you have a sound understanding of what is Social Prescribing, I welcome you to imagine a personalized care plan involving community assets within the Metaverse like a housing and financial organization. The ability for the link worker to interact with the patient avatar who may suffer from social anxiety. There is also the option of educating the patient using 3D assets within the MetaSpace.
However, it will also give rise to Metaverse Determinants of Health (MDH) with inequalities within this new environment. There is also the need to upskill the health & wellbeing workforce using an agreed framework and governance. Like with Social Media training to remain professional at all times. The Metaverse Standards Forum is a much-needed organisation to collaborate with health organizations across the globe to reach a consensus.
You could also have token-gated content within the Metaverse with patients suffering from the same medical condition (like asthma, diabetes, and depression) to enhance social connectedness in regular events. Of course, for mass adoption, the metaverse needs to be bound by local regulation as every countries have different approaches when it comes to medical care.
I hope this article has been thought-provoking and has opened your mind to the infinite possibilities to make this beautiful earth a great place to live in.