On World Mental Health Day, 10 October 2022, the University of Canberra launched its Mental Health Policy Unit (MHPU), led by Professor Luis Salvador-Carulla. Rural mental health and wellbeing is a key priority for the unit and among its members are most of the team who published the Orange Declaration on rural and remote mental health in 2019.
Housed in the Health Research Institute, Luis and his team have gathered leading Australian and international experts, building a comprehensive capability to inform mental health policy and practice. The goal is to improve policy and decision making by using real-world data and world-leading analyses.
Key to the approach is rigorous data analysis, visualisation and interpretation by leading policymakers and practitioners. Key work streams address personal care experiences, service mapping and modelling, visual and digital analytics, as well as analysis of the impact of policy development, implementation and knowledge translation. Specific considerations for urban and rural mental health are a University of Canberra priority. For rural mental health, Professor David Perkins and Dr Hazel Dalton join the team to continue the policy work begun in the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health.
Among the key research streams are:
- Values and human rights – investigating and supporting how the values of care and human rights are protected and promoted during mental-healthcare reforms.
- Health Service Atlases (Glocal) – have enabled the evaluation of local and national patterns of healthcare service, revealing gaps and variation for 21 Australian populations. Using an established international coding scheme, the Glocal project is now combining data on health service availability, capacity and workforce from 35 countries.
- Visual analytics – the graphical and spatial representation of data and information to understand trends, outliers and patterns in data is powerful and can promote shared understanding among patients, policymakers, practitioners and researchers. This can facilitate evidence-informed decision making and value for money in the public and private health sectors.
- Impact analysis – using their own validated model and toolkit for assessing the process of implementation, research key programs can be evaluated and improved using the Global Impact Analytics Framework.
- Modelling and benchmarking of service provision – combining information on health service availability from their atlases of health care with the use of services from routine databases, priorities and mechanisms for service improvements can be identified. The models are used in Australia, Chile, England, Finland and Spain.
- Digital health – building better digital mental health systems (including apps, automated systems, digital navigation tools and platforms) requires the use of best technologies and active engagement with users, practitioners and policymakers.
Other priorities include rural mental health, urban mental health, knowledge transfer and dissemination.
Working in partnership with the Australian Government, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government, national and regional public agencies, major carer and consumer organisations and non-government organisations, the unit is also bringing international experts to Australia to collaborate and share their ideas on mental health policy and research.
MHPU has restarted the seminar series ‘Frontiers of Mental Health Research’, co-organised with the ACT Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing. On Tuesday 8 November 2022, Associate Professor David McDaid, from the London School of Economics, presented on the impact of independent agencies, observatories and other stakeholders on the shape of mental health policy. The MHPU had the privilege to discuss mental health policy and research for an hour before his seminar. Further workshops are planned.
Visit the MHPU website for more information on their work.