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.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.