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Care through Connection: Access to Resources in the Community


New research published in BMC Primary Care is providing insights to the current barriers and facilitators to social prescribing, an approach to care that connects people to non-clinical services in the community to support a person’s health and wellbeing.

It is critical to address the social determinants of health to reduce health inequities among underserved populations, many of which could be served by existing community resources. The Access to Resources in the Community (ARC) social prescribing program provides a lay patient navigator who supports primary care patients in finding needed services and overcoming barriers to access.

“Primary care providers are well positioned to help identify unmet patient needs and connect them to a navigator” said Simone Dahrouge, PhD, Senior Investigator with Bruyère Research Institute and lead for the ARC social prescribing program. “Understanding their current knowledge and use of community resources is key to facilitating better access moving forward.”

The study, which drew perspectives from primary care providers (PCPs), and community health and social service providers, found approachability, availability, and appropriateness of community resources at a system level, significantly impacted patient access to care.

For patients to use and benefit from resources, community-based organizations need to be approachable, while PCPs need readily available information that is relevant and practical to build them into their recommendations to patients.

Interviews indicated that barriers at earlier stages of access were more frequent than at later stages. Researchers suggest that if patients cannot successfully reach community resources, then they may not yet have faced additional barriers such as affordability.

The ARC team hopes to leverage the findings to strengthen the lay patient navigator model and further embed it in primary care settings. Development of clinic strategies to support PCPs in referring patients to community resources are part of the team’s next steps.

“Navigators could bridge a critical gap that both patients and our health system are experiencing,” said Dahrouge. “We have an opportunity to help patients, especially from underserved and vulnerable communities to build trust and recognition in the resources and services that can make a difference.”

Learn more about ARC and the social prescribing model at the webinar recording here (in English only).


This study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (in partnership with the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute) Team Grant: Community-Based Primary Healthcare; and the Ontario SPOR– Innovative Models Promoting Access and Coverage Team (IMPACT) Award.