What have gardens, libraries and museums got to do with your health and wellbeing? – A workshop for members of the public
27 September 2019
In November 2018, members of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine and Gardens, Libraries and Museums division (GLAM) were awarded a joint Knowledge Exchange Seed grant to explore the ways which these gardens, libraries and museum collections and spaces could contribute to health and wellbeing and become a part of the social prescribing.
The project culminated in two knowledge-exchange workshops that took place in July 2019. One of the workshops was designed to engage members of the public and the other forthose involved in delivering and commissioning social prescribing services as well as representatives from the arts and cultural sector.
The objective: The CEBM researchers, GLAM team members and a patient and public contributor formed the core project team. The team collaborated together and with others to co-design, deliver and evaluate this one-day, interactive workshop. The objectives were to raise awareness, as well as gaining insights, about social prescribing, explore how gardens, libraries and museums could health and wellbeing and to steer ongoing and future research.
Recruitment Method: GLAM engagement staff recruited workshop participants through some of the regular groups that already meet at the museums (link to “Meet Me at the Museum”). Research staff contacted local groups such as Oxfordshire Mind and Age UK Oxfordshire and invited them to circulate information about the workshop to their service users. The workshop was also published on Eventbrite where anybody who was interested could sign up. The workshop was attended by 30 members of the public.
The workshops were designed to be social, informative and generate discussion. It was held at a local conference centre, selected because of its accessibility. Participants were provided with a lunch, during which a singing group performed.
The activities were preceded by short presentations from the research and GLAM teams, explaining social prescribing in the context of the healthcare system and within Oxford; and showcasing some of the fantastic activities the museum engagement teams are running at GLAM venues as well as in the community. Three participants who regularly participate in “Meet Me at the Museum” gave moving and powerful personal accounts of how the activities run by the museum have had a positive impact on their lives.
The Washing Line of Knowledge
As workshop participants registered on arrival, they were asked to write down what they understood by “social prescribing” and to hang their note on a washing line. The aim of this activity was to establish what participants’ baseline understanding was of social prescribing.
The project team then organised and delivered three activities:
Activity 1: Where adds to your health and why?
This was an interactive discussion where participants were given a map of Oxford and invited to stick flags on spaces/places they used to support their health and wellbeing. Participants talked about locations they found visually stimulating, spaces they found relaxing and spaces where they carried out activities they enjoyed.
Activity 2: What are the barriers to using GLAM settings for health and wellbeing?
In this activity groups discussed photographs of GLAM venues (e.g. the Botanical Gardens, Pitt Rivers Museum etc) and were encouraged to think about what might encourage or prevent them from visiting these spaces.
Cost, accessibility (disabled access, parking, special sessions for those with sensory sensitivities or who struggle in crowded spaces, clear signage and description of exhibitions), regularity and timing of sessions/activities, advertising of events, were all factors that came up in conversations as affecting likelihood to visit GLAM venues.
Activity 3: What might driver people towards using GLAM venues for the health and wellbeing?
After considering barriers and facilitators to attending GLAM venues, groups were asked to discuss and prioritise what might drive them to using these spaces. This included things like recommendations, organised travel, being clear of the benefits to health and well-being.
The day ended with a whole group discussion about what was learned and what the next steps should be.
Evaluation and Participant Feedback
At the end of the day, participants were asked to fill in an evaluation form asking them four questions:
- What does social prescribing mean to you?
- How has your understanding of social prescribing changed after attending this workshop? If so, why?
- Would you consider using GLAM venues after today? If so, which ones and why? Or if not, can you let us know why not?
- Do you want to be updated about our work on social prescribing?
Upon completion, participants were given vouchers for a free visit to Oxford’s Botanical Gardens.
Some of the feedback we received included:
“Yes – financial cuts over the past 20 years meant many of the facilities that were available and were so useful in my caring have gone. Now social prescribing is another way going back to how everyone helped each other years ago. No labels, just caring and helping people to join in as much as they can”
“Didn’t know about GLAM’s work. Very interesting way to bring people of different backgrounds/ages together.”
Many participants came and told us after the day how much they enjoyed it and how interesting they found the discussions. As a project team, we benefitted greatly from the rich insights generated from the discussion and activities. We will be using the information provided to design and develop future research proposals on the topic of social prescribing. We plan to hold similar workshops in the future as part of the new Social Prescribing Research Network that we have established.
Amadea Turk is a Researcher in Evidence Synthesis at the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, University of Oxford, and is part of the School for Primary Care Research’s Evidence Synthesis Working Group.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author and not necessarily those of the host institution or the National Institute for Health Research.
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