Claremore Daily Progress

Community News Network

April 10, 2014

Boston doctors can now prescribe you a bike

The City of Boston this week is rolling out a new program that's whimsically known as "Prescribe-a-Bike." Part medicine, part welfare, the initiative allows doctors at Boston Medical Center to write "prescriptions" for low-income patients to get yearlong memberships to Hubway, the city's bike-share system, for only $5.

These are not prescriptions in the legal sense. Rather, they are a kind of physician's letter, says Alan Meyers, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center. "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," he explains. The hope is that signing low-income patients up for bike shares will help combat obesity, which disproportionately affects that community.

The $5 prescription rate Boston Medical Center is offering is significantly cheaper than Hubway's $85 annual membership fee, and even beats the $6 24-hour-access pass often purchased by visitors. Boston has also waived credit qualifications for low-income patients, which have proved too much of a roadblock in the past, and is putting its own funds up to insure against potential losses or damages.

Perhaps the oddest thing about Prescribe-a-Bike is that it starts at the doctor's office, yet its aims and functions are not strictly medical. Any low-income patient is eligible to receive a $5 membership from a physician, so long as the person doesn't have a medical condition like a seizure disorder that could make biking dangerous. The program's costs are being borne by the city, rather than any health insurance provider.

Meyers 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.

Consider the driver's license once more. When you apply to get or renew a license in many states, the Department of Motor Vehicles attendant will ask you a question unrelated to your driving abilities - do you want to be an organ donor? Strictly speaking, there is no reason that organ donor sign-ups need to be conducted at the DMV. But the recruiting method turns out to be unparalleled in its effectiveness. NPR's Planet Money did a great episode, "How to Bore Someone Into Donating an Organ," explaining why this is in February. The basic idea is that the DMV acts as a point of contact - tons of people pass through the branches every day, and all they want is to get in and out. Plenty of them are happy to check an organ donor box as they go.

The doctor's office is to Prescribe-a-Bike as the DMV is to organ donor sign-ups. Boston Medical Center is located in Boston's South End, bordering on low-income neighborhoods like Roxbury and Dorchester. Hundreds of thousands of low-income adults and 25,000 low-income children funnel through the hospital's facilities every year. Each of those people is a potential sign-up, especially if recommending the program to low-income patients becomes routine. "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 says.

If you can bore people into donating an organ, maybe you can bore them into hopping on a bike, too.



 

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • 072214 Diamond Llama 1.jpg Llama on the loose corralled in Missouri town

    A llama on the lam cruised Main Street Tuesday before it mistook a resident’s fenced backyard for a place to grab a meal and freshen up.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • NWS-HB0713-HowardMartin-004.jpg Airman laid to rest back home in Indiana six decades after death

    The mystery of what happened to a military transport plane that disappeared in the fall of 1952 into an Alaskan glacier was solved two years ago when a helicopter crew spotted the wreckage. But it took another two years to retrieve the remains of Airman Howard Miller and 16 other servicemen passengers. Saturday, Miller was laid to rest in his hometown of Elwood, Ind., with full military honors. Hundreds turned out for the funeral and burial services.

    July 13, 2014 2 Photos

  • New York to offer free lunch to all middle-school students

    New York's $75 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that began last week includes the first step toward offering free lunch for all 1.1 million students, expanding a program now reserved only for the city's poorest children.

    July 9, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 11.24.10 AM.png VIDEO: Pilot buys pizzas for storm-delayed travelers

    A Frontier Airlines pilot went above and beyond the call of duty when a recent flight from Washington, D.C. to Denver was diverted to Cheyenne, Wyoming due to bad weather.

    July 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Why North Korean cheerleaders may soon descend on the South

    When you think of North Korea, "cheerleaders" may not be the first thing that springs to mind. The Hermit Kingdom is perhaps better known for less savory things like gulag-like labor camps and leadership purges.

    July 8, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 11.46.13 AM.png VIDEO: Foiled beach gear theft goes viral

    Video capturing a bizarre confrontation with two women allegedly attempting to steal beach gear on a Florida beach has gone viral.

    July 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 10.40.20 AM.png VIDEO: Sleeping fan suing Yankees, ESPN for $10M

    A fan caught on camera sleeping during a recent game at Yankee Stadium has filed suit against the Yankees and ESPN, claiming he suffered emotional distress when two announcers mocked him on the air.

    July 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • VIDEO: A boom in firework sales

    This year could be quite the boom for fireworks sales across the U.S. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, or the APA, sales are already off to a good start.

    July 4, 2014

  • Happy birthday, America. Now legalize fireworks.

    Through the smoke of Roman candles and bottle rockets, the absurdity of Americans' obsession with do-it-yourself explosives is nonetheless clear: One day each year, we gather with neighbors, friends and loved ones to blow stuff up in our backyards. Go, U.S.A.!

    July 4, 2014

  • Cattle at record signals higher beef costs for July 4th grillers

    Cattle futures extended a rally to a record as Americans are gearing up to pay the most ever for beef served at barbecues over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

    July 3, 2014