McCarthy, Irene 2023 03 14

Irene McCarthy

Irene McCarthy job-shares the position of manager of the Mental Health Clinical Collaborative (MHCC) for Queensland Health. Irene’s background is in speech pathology. Prior to joining MHCC in 2007, Irene worked for Queensland Health’s Clinical Practice Improvement Centre and implemented the collaborative methodology for service improvement across a variety of clinical networks. Irene also coordinates the Brief Breakthrough Collaborative, on behalf of Queensland’s Mental Health Alcohol and Other Drugs Clinical Network.


Title: Supporting metabolic health for Queenslanders living with serious mental illness and/or substance use

Author(s): Sally Plever, Irene McCarthy, Dan Siskind

Introduction: People experiencing serious mental illness (SMI) have reduced life expectancy because of preventable physical health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and people experiencing SMI are less likely to receive adequate physical health care. Queensland Health, Mental Health Alcohol and Other Drug (MHAOD) services have been developing local activities aimed at providing mental health and physical health care to address this issue. However, little was known about existing programs, prompting a scan of initiatives.

Method: In March 2022 the Queensland MHAOD and Diabetes Clinical Networks partnered to support mental health and endocrine wellbeing for people with SMI. A working group formed with statewide representation from clinicians, people with lived experience, endocrinologists, public health physicians, nurse navigators, dietitians, and exercise physiologists to identify practice examples optimising physical health and mental health care within MHAOD services.

Results & Findings: Statewide over 25 programs addressing the physical health and wellbeing of people experiencing SMI, across the lifespan, were identified. While not exhaustive, the examples provided a broad variety of existing programs addressing physical health including cardio-metabolic health, oral health, smoking cessation, sexual health, nutrition, and physical activity. A summary document was developed organising activities according to mental health program area, wellbeing/lifestyle interventions targeted, and evidence-base.

Discussion: The variety of physical health interventions being delivered in Queensland MHAOD services statewide is considerable, with programs addressing a broad array of physical health areas. Most commonly programs are provided as part of existing resources with few funded to support service delivery or evaluation. Consequently, it has proven challenging for services to report outcomes or costing of program delivery. It is anticipated that the summary document will provide a resource enabling services to engage with consumers, carers, and service partners to identify opportunities to implement physical health activities to improve health outcomes for people experiencing SMI and/or substance use disorders.