Charles Sturt University academics from Orange recently headlined a national symposium to collaborate on a plan to improve the healthcare delivered to Australians living with mental and physical health conditions.
Experts from Charles Sturt, the Mitchell Institute, and more than 50 industry organisations joined forces at the symposium in Canberra earlier this month to develop a set of priority recommendations to present to government that will improve Australia's physical and mental health treatments and services.
Key note speaker for the symposium Associate Professor Russell Roberts from the Charles Sturt School of Marketing and Management said the collaborative efforts at the symposium had resulted in a national action plan now being developed to bring about improvements.
"Charles Sturt, the Mitchell Institute, and the industry partners joined forces at the symposium because we all identified that urgent action needs to be taken so the prevention of physical health conditions for people experiencing mental health conditions is considered a priority," Professor Roberts said.
"Life expectancy for people who experience mental health conditions is reduced by up to 25 years and research shows 80 per cent of people living with a mental illness have a chronic physical illness."
Professor Roberts said a lot of changes need to happen to improve the healthcare offered in Australia for people living with coexisting mental and physical health conditions, especially for people living in regional, rural and remote Australia.
We need strong regional communities where the foundations of strong physical and mental health are present.Associate Professor Russell Roberts.
"One of the recommendations identified at the symposium was how a unique approach needs to be taken in rural and regional areas given they have unique needs," Professor Roberts said.
"We need to improve the physical and mental health services in regional and rural areas to develop healthy, vibrant and resilient communities which provide adequate access to services.
"We need strong regional communities where the foundations of strong physical and mental health are present.
"To do this, we need to improve services and facilities, such as footpaths, bike paths, gyms, parks and sporting grounds, and improve access to healthcare services, in rural and regional areas."
The Charles Sturt academics who attended the symposium are based at Charles Sturt's Orange campus and are members of the national research project 'Equally Well', which supports the physical health of people with mental illnesses.
The project, designed and implemented by experts at Charles Sturt, is investigating the impact of national leadership and social marketing campaigns on the utilisation of online resources to support the physical health of people with mental illnesses.
The academics from Charles Sturt also established an international learning and support network among 12 countries earlier this year to address the global issue of improving the physical health of people living with mental illness.
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