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Collaborative approach to address mental and physical health

New Zealand’s collaborative approach to addressing mental and physical health launched in Australia

Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui (Te Pou) and The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) are delighted their “Equally Well” was launched in Australia today by Professor Allan Fels, Chair of the National Mental Health Commission of Australia.

Established in New Zealand in 2014, Equally Well is a collaboration of people and organisations working together to address the physical health disparities of people living with mental illness. Evidence has shown that people who experience mental health and addiction problems don’t have the same access to quality care and treatment for physical illness as everyone else, and as a result, can have reduced life expectancy.

More than 100 organisation have committed to action in New Zealand by signing the Equally Well Consensus Statement and the collaboration has already received two international awards. In Australia, 53 organisations, including all state and territory governments, have committed to supporting Equally Well, with the hope that today’s launch will increase awareness and lead others to commit to the Equally Well principles.

“We are honoured the National Mental Health Commission of Australia has seen the value in our collaborative approach and adopted the concept. We know in New Zealand, for many individuals and organisations, physical health now appears to have a higher priority in recognition of these unacceptable disparities in health outcomes,” says Robyn Shearer, Chief Executive of Te Pou.

RANZCP have been leading partners in both the New Zealand and Australian Equally Well Consensus Statements.

“The fact that Australians and New Zealanders with serious mental illness are dying 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population, and mainly because of poor physical health, is simply not acceptable in the twenty first century,” says Dr Kym Jenkins, President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.

“Better screening, earlier treatment and management of co-existing physical health conditions will help people with a mental illness – and will reduce costs to the national health system.“

The issues behind the significant difference in mortality are complex and interrelated.

“We need many people working across the health-related sectors to address these entrenched and long-standing health inequities, that’s why we took a collaborative approach to bringing about change,” says Helen Lockett, Equally Well Strategic Lead.

“The launch of the Australian Equally Well Consensus Statement is a crucial step in bringing people together and we look forward to working alongside our Australian colleagues to improve the physical health of people who experience mental health conditions and addiction.”

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