Prescribe-a-Bike: Boston Doctors Can Now Prescribe Bicycles


Fri, Apr 11th, 2014 20:00 by capnasty NEWS

Slate's Alison Griswold reports on a new program being tested out in Boston that allows doctors to write "prescriptions" for the city's bike-sharing program. The prescription only costs $5, rather than the annual cost of $85, and is designed to promote the health of low-income patients in order to "help combat obesity, which disproportionately affects that community."

[Alan Meyers, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Centre,] admits the setup is odd but says it’s not the first of its kind. Primary care providers at Boston Medical Center already write similar “prescriptions” that give low-income patients with nutritional needs access to the hospital’s own food pantry. The pantry itself is staffed by hospital personnel but funded by private charities.

The difference between the pantry and Prescribe-a-Bike, however, is that access to the first depends in part on medical need while the second is solely based on income. So why should a $5 membership require a doctor’s note?

The answer is probably that it shouldn’t. Meyers says the role of the physician goes as far as ensuring that the bike share is “safe” for the patient but ends there. It seems unnecessary to require doctors for that assessment—it’s not like every driver’s license needs to be approved by an M.D. Unless, of course, “prescribing” the memberships has less to do with medicine, and more to do with finding the right outreach point.



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