Promoting mental health & wellness to underserved and high needs children, youth, and their families through a social prescription program

Vanier Community Services Centre

Promoting mental health & wellness to underserved and high needs children, youth, and their families through a social prescribing program

The Vanier Social Pediatric Hub (VSPH) is an evidence-based social pediatric model which aims to integrate a comprehensive and holistic approach to health and wellbeing into existing social services for children, youth and their families who are living in underserved communities.

The purpose of this project, offered in both Official Languages, is to enhance the use of social prescribing and community-based well-being activities as potential primary prevention and early intervention pathways to improve child and youth mental health and well-being, the first of its kind in Canada. Social prescribing is a means for trusted individuals in clinical and community settings to identify that a person has non-medical, health-related social needs and to subsequently connect them to non-clinical supports and services within the community by co-producing a social prescription – a non-medical prescription, to improve health and wellbeing and to strengthen community connections. This is an innovative initiative, which integrates a comprehensive and holistic approach to health and wellbeing into existing health and social services for children, youth and their families who are living in marginalized communities to support them to reach their full potential. This project will help to evaluate the implementation and impact of a social prescribing model on this demographic. 


Children, youth and families in the Vanier K1L neighbourhood, Ottawa ON area



  • The VSPH was the first of its kind in Ontario (2017) to offer accessible, comprehensive, integrated, centrally coordinated health and social services targeting children and youth living in a vulnerable community
  • Through community partnerships, VSPH has access to a broad range of health and wellness activities that address child and youth wellness and are intended to reduce stressors and inequities
  • The VSPH team uses social prescribing to address barriers and inequities faced by their target population


  • VSPH team integrates health, mental health and wellbeing, public health, social and community resources, education and employment, legal services, and other interventions under one roof
  • Social workers and pediatricians meet with kids and families directly
  • VSPH facilitates access through partnerships (e.g. Canadian Museum of Nature and other Federal Museums) to programs that aim to reduce the socio-economic barriers preventing children, youth and families from accessing cultural, linguistic, artistic, recreational and leisure activities
  • VSPH seeks to mobilize health equity as a cornerstone of the social prescribing model and aims to remove the economic, geographical, interpersonal or psychological barriers which restrict their populations’ ability or capacity to participate in health and wellness activities



  • Community
  • Online

Implementation sites

  • Vanier, ON and surrounding areas


      • Post pandemic increase in family stressors among VSPH clients who already had complex psycho-social needs prior to the pandemic
      • Disruption of health care systems related to the pandemic and public health restrictions have also significantly reduced VCSC’s clients’ use of health care services
      • Importance of maintaining community connectedness for health and wellbeing
      • Integrating social support and health care, the VSPH team helps children, youth and their families reconnect to their communities thereby mediating some of the detrimental effects of the pandemic


In the words of the project team members

“At a systems level, we’re also seeing professionals, staff who are social prescribing, at less risk for burnout, and much happier and joyful in the work that they’re doing.”

“Social prescribing connects individuals to their communities and brings back a sense of belonging. It decreases isolation and brings back joy and hope [to people’s] lives.”

Key protective factors

  • Physical activity
  • Self-esteem
  • Supportive relationships in the community
  • Involvement in community and group activities
  • Sense of belonging
  • Equity

Key approaches

  • Social prescribing
  • Integrated wraparound services model
  • Trauma-informed
  • Culturally safe

Additional quotes from the project

“Social prescribing really gives us another arm of treatment and prevention for mental health and wellbeing issues. We have the research globally, but particularly in England, [where they] have incorporated social prescribing into their national health service policy and practice. There’s an economic rationale [as it] decreases burden on the primary health care system”

“With this project, we are hoping that we can provide the evidence to show the impact this is having not just on kids, but their families and communities. Our hope is that governments will be listening and funding our health system to have social prescribing.”

“I’ve been personally amazed to see our kids who received social prescriptions for Orkidstra. This is a social development program using music for child development. During COVID, when the schools were closed, when everybody was at home, isolated, cut off from friends, school activities, it was amazing to see these kids in their bedrooms, playing their instruments, and playing together online playing amazing music. All the statistics from Orkidstra at this time is that all their kids have gone on not just to finish high school but gone on to secondary education. They are happier, they feel a sense of belonging with Orkidstra. And significantly, the parents are saying the kids are happier. They’ve got an increased sense of empathy, and their learning is much improved.”


Public Health Agency of Canada news release