Celebrating milestones towards a more Equally Well country key focus for Equally Well Symposium 2023
- National scan reveals over 300 programs in Australia focus on improving physical health outcomes for people living with mental illness
- National Awards highlight international impact and innovation in closing life expectancy gap for people living with mental illness
- Key gaps in screening for cancer and heart disease and supports for smoking, oral health and vaccinations are needed to reduce 20-year life expectancy gap for people living with mental ill-health
A National Scan of Initiatives and Activities shows an increase in the number of programs around Australia aimed at improving the physical health outcomes for people living with mental illness. Showcasing this innovation will be a focus for participants at the 2023 Equally Well Symposium 25-27 July in Sydney.
The National Initiatives and Activities Scan 2022 maps the extensive work from the nearly 100 Equally Well supporter organisations and their impact against the criteria for improving health outcomes for people with mental illness as outlined in the Equally Well National Consensus Statement.
The 2023 Equally Well Symposium theme, Becoming an Equally Well Country: Working collaboratively to reduce health inequality, acknowledges the multiple perspectives and unique experiences of all of those who are committed to the goal of reducing the life expectancy gap for people living with mental health challenges and are passionate about achieving equal rights to health care for all, no matter where they are, who they are or where they come from.
Equally Well National Director and Charles Sturt University Professor of Leadership Russell Roberts, said the evidence from this National Scan demonstrates how these initiatives are improving health and saving lives. However, we are very early in this journey and there are still opportunities to do better.
“We can see since we started mapping the data in 2018, that there has been an increase in areas of activity for programs focussing on integrated care between health services, nutrition, exercise and strong partnerships with consumers and carers in developing resources that better suit their needs – which are all great results.
“However, we now also see from this data that there are opportunities to target key gaps in areas such as smoking reduction, improving vaccination rates and better oral health, if we are going to maintain the impact of the life-saving work being done to address this problem,” he said. Some data supporting the scan results includes:
- Smoking – one in two long term smokers die of smoking-related illnesses and while the overall percentage of smokers in Australia has plummeted over the last 20 years, it remains unchanged for people living with mental illness.
- Vaccination – people living with mental illness are 7 times more likely to be hospitalised and 5 times more likely to die due to vaccine preventable conditions. A flu vaccination costs $15-30. A night in hospital costs $2,000.
- Oral Health – poor oral health has major negative impacts on immunological, cardiovascular and other body systems, yet appears to be an area receiving least attention.
Professor Roberts said a key aim of the annual symposium is to energise leaders to share, facilitate collaboration and amplify impact to address this serious problem.
“The fact that every year over 20,000 people with mental illness die prematurely mostly due to preventable physical illnesses like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and influenza, is a nationalshame. Working collectively by sharingknowledge, experiences of success and addressing challenges, we will achieve this goal of collective action for change,” Professor Russell Roberts said.
After a year of consultation, workshops, drafting and incorporating 1,400 written submissions, the Equally Well National Consensus Statement was adopted in 2017 as shared commitment to coordinated action to address this national problem. In 2017, the National Mental Health Commission supported the establishment of the Equally Well project team to oversee and coordinate the implementation of the Equally Well National Consensus Statement.
A Progress Report, Equally Well in Action – The first six years and presentation of the inaugural Equally Well Awards are a feature of this year’s Symposium program.
Professor Roberts said now is a good time to reflect on what impact has been made through this collective call for action that became the Equally Well movement and consider next steps for coordinated national action.
“Equally Well is alive and well. Australia is leading the world in a coordinated approach to improving the physical health of people living with mental illness. We are witnessing great progress but we need to stay committed to maintaining the momentum from our first six years and really pushing towards health care equity in this country.”
Some notable achievements in the report include:
- Every state mental health department has an Equally Well-related strategy or is currently in the process of developing one.
- Community managed organisations (NGOs) have introduced world leading reforms to protect and enhance the physical health of their clients.
- Primary Health Networks (PHNs) have reported 55 new initiatives focused on the physical health of people living with mental illness.
- The National Medical Health and Research Council recently committed $5 million to research targeting the physical health of people living with mental illness.
Leaders in mental health lived experience, research, policy and practice share program keynotes
The Symposium program features over 50 presentations covering topics including:
- Physical activity and mental illness with a focus on populations exposed to trauma: Simon Rosenbaum Scientia Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Health, Discipline of Psychiatry and Mental Health, UNSW Sydney
- Nutritional Psychiatry: Current evidence and practice: Felice Jacka OAM is Alfred Deakin Professor of Nutritional Psychiatry, Co-Director of the Food & Mood Centre at Deakin University, and founder and president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research. Dr Tetyana Rocks is a Senior Research Fellow and head of Translation and Education at the Food & Mood Centre, IMPACT, Deakin University.
- Equally Well Healthtalk project launch, this is a unique initiative that explores the intersection between physical health and mental health: Chris Maylea is a social worker, lawyer, and Associate Professor of Law at La Trobe University
- Keeping the Body in Mind(gardens) physical health resources launch: Dr Jackie Curtis is the Executive Director of the Mindgardens Neuroscience Network. She is also Clinical Lead of Youth Mental Health, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District and Conjoint Professor with the Discipline of Psychiatry and Mental Health UNSW. Mental health consumers and their treating clinicians will benefit from a comprehensive suite of resources that present evidence-based guidance for managing the physical health effects associated with severe mental health conditions.
- Cultural determinants of Aboriginal Mental Health & Wellbeing: Matthew Trindall, Aboriginal Mental Health Director, NSW Health
- Beyond equality: Health Equity through an intersectional lense:Emily Unity is a lived and living experience professional who is passionate about advocating for the human rights of all people, regardless of background, identity, or intersectionality.
For a full preview of the program and speaker details visit the Equally Well 2023 Symposium Website or follow us on your socials #EquallyWellAu23.