Doctors in Boston 'prescribe' very low cost bike hire for patients
$5 annual bike hire offered like food banks to improve health of those on low incomes
Doctors in Boston can now prescribe very low-cost bike hire to their patients to help combat obesity in low-income communities.
Under the “Prescribe-a-Bike” scheme doctors at Boston Medical Center can write “prescriptions” for low-income patients to get yearlong memberships to Hubway, the city’s bike-share system, for $5.
Alan Meyers, a paediatrician at Boston Medical Center told The Slate: “A clinician working with a patient or family could generate this form and then a hospital parking office which is right on the campus could enroll the person in the program.”
Hubway’s annual membership usually costs $85, making the $5 annual prescription even cheaper than the $6 daily visitor bike pass.
There will also be no requirement to prove creditworthiness or insure against loss or damage.
The costs will be borne by the city rather than a medical insurer.
The scheme is being compared to a food bank run by the hospital, which provides low income patients with nutritious food provided by charities - but the bike scheme differs in that it requires no medical need and is based solely on income.
“It’s really a point of convenience, and we hope that coming from a physician it may give people more of a stimulus to actually buy it,” Meyers said.
In the UK, doctors routinely prescribe exercise to patients for a number of health conditions ranging from obesity to depression.
GPs can refer patients to a local active health team for a number of gym or exercise sessions which can be free or low cost depending on individual circumstances.
At present prescribed exercise in the UK takes place in a gym or health centre.