Adults on the autism spectrum are affected by health disparities which significantly reduce life expectancy and experience barriers to accessing healthcare. Social prescribing is a holistic approach that diverts patients from primary care to health-enhancing activities in communities. However, there has been a lack of research attention to how autistic people navigate the social prescribing pathway and the ability of these approaches to address existing disparities. This mapping review aimed to synthesise features of non-medical, community-based interventions for autistic adults to assess their suitability for a social prescribing approach. A systematic search and screening process was used to identify literature reviews from medical databases (Embase, Medline, PsycINFO, CINAHL and Cochrane reviews) and grey literature. We extracted data from 24 reviews and 19 studies including types of services, participants, outcomes, settings and procedures. A narrative and visual synthesis is used to map the variety of services and interventions identified, the outcome measures used, and the barriers and facilitators to progression through services in relation to a realist social prescribing framework. The review found that there has been minimal evaluation of holistic, low intensity services for autistic adults, such as those offered in social prescribing approaches. Outcome measures remain focused on features of autism and reveal less about the effects of interventions on health and wellbeing. Aspects of the social prescribing model were identified in the features of service pathways, but findings also suggested how social prescribing could be adapted to improve accessibility for autistic people.
Featherstone, C, Sharpe, RA, Axford, N, Asthana, S, Husk, K. Health and wellbeing outcomes and social prescribing pathways in community-based support for autistic adults: A systematic mapping review of reviews. Health Soc Care Community. 2021; 00: 1– 15.