Addressing chronic disease risk factors in people with mental illness


Project title: Community managed organisations: a potential role in addressing the chronic disease burden among people with mental illness

Start date: March 2018

Estimated end date: August 2020

What is the issue?

Few groups experience the burden of chronic disease more than people with mental illness. Worldwide, this high-risk population has a reduced life expectancy of 12 to 30 years. This inequity has a large impact on the overall chronic disease burden, with 45% of the Australian population experiencing mental illness in their lifetime.

There is an opportunity for mental health support services to address the chronic disease risk behaviours of their clients, including smoking, inadequate physical activity, harmful alcohol consumption and poor nutrition. This is recommended internationally, nationally and at state level, but the provision of such preventive care is consistently reported to be sub-optimal. We need to explore additional avenues to provide support to people with mental illness to change their health risk behaviours.

Community managed organisations (CMOs) could possibly help fill this gap as they already play an important role in the care of people with mental illness. CMOs are predominantly not-for-profit or non-government organisations providing support services that help keep people well in the community. There are more than 800 CMOs in Australia providing a diverse range of mental health rehabilitation and support services. We need research to understand what they are doing currently in preventive care, the feasibility or acceptability of CMOs providing preventive care, and the mechanisms that may support CMOs to do so systematically.

How is the project addressing the issue?

We are conducting a scoping and co-design study with CMOs that provide support to people with mental illness in NSW. This involves consumers, care providers and senior managers/executives to co-design a feasible model for the provision of preventive care in CMOs that can be adapted to the resource availability of different service contexts.

What are the expected outcomes?

  • A comprehensive picture of the preventive care that is currently being provided by CMOs, the potential barriers, facilitators to its provision, and the mechanisms that could be used to enhance the systematic provision of such care
  • A feasible, cost-effective model for the provision of preventive health care for people with mental illness who are receiving treatment through CMOs
  • The pilot testing of the model with one large state-wide CMO service during the final year of the project.

Relevance for practice

This project addresses the question of how community managed organisations (CMOs) can help reduce the inequitable burden of chronic disease experienced by people with mental illness; with findings relevant to the policy and practice of both government agencies and CMOs.

A feasible, cost-effective model for the provision of preventive health care for people with mental illness who are receiving treatment through CMOs will be identified, with relevance to CMOs nationally.

 

Project lead

Professor Jenny Bowman, University of Newcastle

Project team

Professor John Wiggers, University of Newcastle
Associate Professor Luke Wolfenden, University of Newcastle
Dr Kate Bartlem, University of Newcastle
Dr Tara Clinton-McHarg, University of Newcastle
Associate Professor Andrew Searles, University of Newcastle
Professor Andrew Wilson, University of Sydney

Advisory group

Consumers
Mental Health Coordinating Council
NSW Mental Health Commission

Funding for this research has been provided from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). The MRFF provides funding to support health and medical research and innovation, with the objective of improving the health and wellbeing of Australians. MRFF funding has been provided to The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre under the MRFF Boosting Preventive Health Research Program. Further information on the MRFF is available at www.health.gov.au/mrff.

2018