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Social Prescription

Brief History of the CultureRx: Social Prescription Pilot

Whereas the practice of social prescription is common in other countries, Massachusetts was first to lead the practice here in the United States. In January 2020, Mass Cultural Council launched Phase I of the pilot by choosing eight cultural organizations interested in participating in a Social Prescription Pilot Program designed to positively affect the health and well-being of the people of Massachusetts and the fiscal health of our nonprofit cultural organizations. Our intention was to further develop cross-sector partnerships, demonstrate the protective and therapeutic effect of cultural and arts participation, and to create a model where the services provided by cultural organizations are funded. Through the four phases of the pilot, over 1940 prescriptions were issued .

Phase II, ran from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 and expanded the program across the state to a broader cohort of 12 organizational grantees who had existing partnerships with professional care providers. The Phase II cohort of cultural organizations represented a diverse set of disciplines and modes of delivering service that needed to adjust to the ever-changing nature of COVID-19.

Although much of the work in both Phase I, II, and III had to be paused during the pandemic, requiring a much slower development of relationships, processes, trust needed in social prescription, many organizations were able to pivot to virtual and outdoor programming and find other inventive ways to connect with their communities. Along with adapting programming, many developed sustainable practices, deepened their investment in DEIA, expanded their partnerships, and found ways to utilize time in the pandemic to create innovative methods and materials for recruitment. We further developed cross-sector partnerships, including a national cohort of researchers, arts agencies, health practitioners, and cultural directors, and teaching artists to better understand and promote protective and therapeutic effects of cultural and arts participation.

In Phase III and IV (FY22 and FY23), we were aided by a Social Prescription Task Force and we were able to hire Dr. Tasha Golden as a Social Prescription Consultant. Not only did she help organizations document and communicate impact, she also created multiple trainings for the Social Prescription cohort (in trauma-informed care, creating cross-sector partnerships, and in evaluation) but she also orchestrated a partnership with University of Florida, Arts and Medicine to co-create a practical, free, how-to resource guide Arts on Prescription: A Field Guide for US Communities (PDF).

In Phase IV consultant Amy Bantham (CEO/Founder of Move to Live®More) was hired to find an entity who had a workable model for improving public and personal health with access cultural activities and experiences and could possibly scale social prescription in Massachusetts. Art Pharmacy was chosen for its proven model where the services and health impacts provided by cultural organizations can be sustainably and equitably funded. Since 2021 they have supported art and culture prescriptions and will continue to expand to New York, Massachusetts, and California. They are set to further the scaling of social prescription for 2024 and beyond.


  • In FY20 and FY21, Mass Cultural Council reimbursed cultural organizations services they provided for the social prescriptions they fulfilled.
  • In FY22 and FY23, Mass Cultural Council changed the structure so that each participating organization received an upfront grant of $10,000 per year to be used for all expenses related to Social Prescription activities that took place between each fiscal year.
  • In FY24 (2023-2024) we will contract with Art Pharmacy to provide services in three regions in the state. They will also explore onboarding insurers, managed care providers and employers. Mass Cultural Council’s additional role will be in helping them to build cross-sector relationships to advise and support social prescription in Massachusetts.

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Phase IV – FY23 (2022-2023)

In Phase IV, 10 of the 12 organizations from Phase III continued to offer cultural activities from over 30 prescribers. Over 1,200 prescriptions were issued and redeemed.

Phase III – FY22 (2021-2022)

In Phase III, we did not accept applications from other organizations but offered and received applications from the 12 programs wishing to recommit. Focusing on creating and deepening a learning community to identify systemic barriers and create effective practices that promote active participation in social prescription, we formed a Social Prescription Task Force and continued to partner with the broad arts and health ecosystem to inform and enhance the work. Our goals were to:

    1. Support cross sector partnerships and
    2. Remove barriers for community participation
    3. Cultivate knowledge and advocacy through research and evaluation.

Phase II – FY21 (2020-2021)

In Phase II, the pilot expanded the program to include 12 organizations as we extended our capacity to offer the first statewide social prescription pilot in the United States. We expanded our provider list to include doctors, social workers, community health workers, therapists, and teachers, with prescriptions generated to help connect clients with cultural experiences.

Phase I – FY20 (2019-2020)

Phase I was launched with eight organizations working with two professional care providers in Western Massachusetts, Caring Health Center in Springfield and MACONY Pediatrics in Berkshire County. Running from January – June 30, 2020, this first phase focused on building a cohort of cultural organizations working with professional care providers to positively affect the health and well-being of the people of their community.

Planning – FY19 (2018-2019)

Social Prescription Research & Resources

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