We believe that being in and around the natural environment, and giving people social shared experiences, provides us with the basis to improve our health and wellbeing. That’s why we’re running several ‘social prescribing’ projects.

Early signs are that the ‘prescriptions’ really are working: a study of this pilot (part of a wider programme run by St Austell Healthcare) has shown that over 12 weeks 94% of participants have experienced an increase in wellbeing, and the GP surgery has seen a 40% drop in associated visits.

What is social prescribing?

Social prescribing enables GPs to refer patients with medical, social, emotional or practical needs to a range of local, non-clinical services such as exercise programmes, social clubs and nature-based activities – in the same way they would prescribe a drug, or refer a patient to a hospital.

Whatever the activity, they can give people new life opportunities, help them form new relationships, be creative and increase their activity levels. Social prescribing also empowers people to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing, and gives them a choice about their treatment – finding activities that work for them.

Given that in 2016 approximately two-thirds of the Department of Health budget was being spent on secondary care services, such as mental health services, and treating conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), social prescribing makes economic sense too.

Eden’s ‘prescriptions’

Walking groups

Building on the success of our COPD walking group, we are now also running a diabetes walking group. We walk all over the Eden site with walks for different abilities. The physical benefits of walking are numerous, including improved heart health, lowering blood pressure, increasing cardiovascular conditioning and improved muscle tone and strength. It also increases metabolism and burns calories. But there are social benefits too. Most of the group would say that they wouldn’t walk alone. 

'It helps me get out of bed in the morning and do it... And that’s not easy, as a doctor prescribes fitness but, actually, he can’t force you to do it.'
David, diabetes walk leader (and diabetic)

'I’ve made new friends, I’ve got more stamina and I feel a bit fitter. And I’ve got more confidence; it’s helped my mood.'
Tracey, diabetes support network participant

Eden Lunch Club

It is said that isolation is a bigger risk factor among older people than obesity or physical inactivity. We are piloting a weekly lunch club for local older people. Most of our members are in their 80s, and have a range of conditions that leave them housebound – from severe mobility impairments to deafblindness – or simply lack access to affordable transport. We invite them on a short walk and then have lunch in one of our onsite cafes. We’re delighted that some of the Lunch Club members have started to talk about meeting together at other times. Find out about the Eden Lunch Club.

Horticulture therapy 

This weekly programme offers people living with mental ill health the opportunity to develop a range of horticultural skills in Eden’s gardens and wider estate. The group is learning techniques such as plant care through to more practical and creative things like building raised beds or willow weaving. Whatever the activity, the aim is to develop a sense of value in participants, often lost during periods of mental ill health, increase independence and confidence, and improve their ability to plan and to adapt to issues. The garden also yields produce for harvest, providing the opportunity to cook, eat and socialise together.

The great news is that it's working: a study of participants in this weekly session shows that over 12 weeks 100% of them have experienced an increase in wellbeing, and the GP surgery has seen a 40% drop in associated visits. Find out about the horticulture therapy programme.

How to get involved

If you know a friend or family member that could benefit from these activities, please contact Heidi Morgan on 01726 818550, 07817 875165 or hmorgan@edenproject.com.