There is a significant physical health disparity between people who experience mental health and addiction issues, and people who don’t.
Two years ago, Equally Well was launched to put an end to this disparity. Equally Well is a group of people and organisations working together to improve physical health outcomes for people who experience mental health and addiction issues. This is the first time in New Zealand so many people, from so many different roles and organisations, have come together to tackle this issue.
Last year, we surveyed people involved in Equally Well to get a snapshot of what is happening across New Zealand. 167 people responded to the Taking our Pulse survey. Here’s some of what we found…
More than 400 activities and interventions are underway in organisations to improve the physical health of people using mental health and addiction services. This is fantastic. We look forward to sharing some of these examples with you in the coming months.
Assessment, screening and monitoring
45 respondents said their organisations are now more consistently providing metabolic screening. This is really important as people who experience mental health issues have higher rates of metabolic syndrome.
35 respondents said their organisations are providing routine screening and monitoring for physical health problems.
35 respondents from primary care said their organisations are providing routine checks for cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk, two conditions which are also more prevalent for people who experience mental health issues.
50 respondents said their organisations are promoting screening and brief interventions in primary care for alcohol and other substances.
Improving access to care
39 respondents said they’ve increased access to funded primary care consultations.
Many respondents said reducing stigma and discrimination was a priority, as well as promoting consumer/service user leadership and input, and the use of peer support workers.
More than half of the respondents had taken action to make physical health more visible in mental health operational policies.
40 respondents are promoting increased use of shared electronic records across all health services, including mental health and addiction services.
There is still much work to do
So much work has happened in such little time, from a range of people and organisations. We can see the day when these activities become routine practice in every health service, but there is still much work to do.
The survey results have shown us we need to focus on:
- easy access to primary care
- shared electronic records between services
- improved access to oral health treatment
- a minimum of one annual wellness check for people prescribed psychotropic medications
- easy access to early intervention in psychosis services
- promoting needle exchanges and screening and treatment for Hepatitis C.
What can you do to get involved?
We believe every organisation has the power to bring about change. If you are thinking about adopting a new practice or intervention in your service to improve physical health outcomes, here are some ways Equally Well can help.
- Join our Loomio group, where you can connect with other people involved in Equally Well. Contact Wendy Donaldson to join the group.
- Read The physical health of people with a serious mental illness and/or addiction: An evidence review. It outlines the facts and figures, and looks at successful interventions.
- Contact the Equally Well backbone team. If you’re trying to get your colleagues on board, we may be able to help. Get in touch with Jo van Leeuwen.