Pathways to Preventive Care for People with Severe Mental Illness

Seed Funding Project Lead Investigator

Dr Catherine Spooner Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity (CPHCE) UNSW Medicine.

Research Team

Professor Mark Harris, Associate Professor Ben Harris-Roxas and Jane Taggart CPHCE; Professor Karen Fisher Social Policy Research Centre; and Conjoint Associate Professor Patrick Bolton UNSW Medicine.

Project Background

People with severe mental illness (PWSMI) have poorer physical health and a 13-30 year shorter life expectancy than the general population. The majority of deaths are due to preventable diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which are more prevalent among PWSMI than the general population. Major contributors for poorer physical health include lifestyle, side effects of psychotropic mediations and reduced access to quality health care. There is a need to improve access to, and the quality of, preventive health care for PWSMI to improve their physical health outcomes. Preventive healthcare includes management of risk behaviours, physiological risk factors and the early detection of disease based on evidence based guidelines. There is currently very little research internationally (and none in Australia) providing a consumer perspective to inform interventions that might improve access and ongoing relationships with GPs to improve preventive care for PWSMI.

Project Aim

The project will focus on the experiences and perspectives of PWSMI and what has helped or enabled them to establish and maintain a positive relationship with a GP. We propose to use these findings to explore how we can work with GPs, consumers and mental health service facilitators through consultation in the next stage of the research project.

Interdisciplinary research collaboration and partnership building

The investigator team includes UNSW academics from medicine, public health, and the social sciences with experience in inclusive research methods; primary health care research with a focus on integrated care, and research with vulnerable populations including people with a mental illness. The team also includes a researcher with lived experience of mental illness and care, who has conducted innovative qualitative research with other consumers and carers; general practitioners; and NSW health personnel with roles in primary and mental health service planning.


Email: Dr Catherine Spooner Lead Investigator

Pathways to Preventive Care for People with Severe Mental Illness