The Integrated Atlas of Mental Health

This is a time of intense reform in the Mental Health Sector and ConNetica is delighted to be working with a number of leading PHN’s across Australia on projects that will influence the direction of this change. The outcomes from projects will provide a sound basis for long-term service planning and development and significantly advance our collective efforts on integrated care and achieving improved outcomes for all service users.

One of the key aspects of this work is the Integrated Atlas of Mental Health.

Why an integrated atlas of mental health?

Evidence-informed services imply the use of evidence-based approaches, taking into account local factors .  Within this context, Atlases of Health are essential tools for decision making and quality assessment. These Atlases include detailed information on social and demographic characteristics and health-related needs, as well as data on services availability and care capacity. Atlases of Health allow comparison between small health areas, highlighting variations of care, and detecting gaps in the provision of services.

Planning is central to person centred care (Salvador-Carulla and Mezzich, 2012). The ‘integrated care model’ Goodwin 2013  is also changing the way health care should be assessed and planned.  Hence, it is important to have a global picture of all the services available, regardless of which sector is funding them (i.e. Health, Social Welfare and Family, Employment, Criminal Justice).

By September 2016, based on completed and current work, ConNetica along with our partner the Mental Health Policy Unit, University of Sydney will have mapped approximately 40% of Australia’s land mass which is inhabited by about 28% of the population.

The holistic service mapping produced through an Atlas of Health allows policy planners and decision makers to make bridges between the different sectors and to better allocate services (Salvador-Carulla et al., 2012). 

How we do it?

We map all the services for people experiencing mental ill-health (children and adults) and their families providing care in a local health district. In some areas we are also mapping Alcohol and Other Drug services.

e use the "Description and Evaluation of Services and Directories in Europe for long-term care" model (DESDE-LTC 1.0) (Salvador-Carulla et al., 2013). Based on work already undertaken in Australia a second edition of the DESDE-LTC is being used. The DESDE is based on a taxonomy tree and coding system that allows the classification of services in a defined catchment area according to the main care structure/activity offered as well as their level of availability and utilisation. This mapping can be incorporated into Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to inform locally relevant and equitable solutions for targeting health resources and services. The information can be aggregated at ‘macro-level’ providing integrated atlases of a region or a jurisdiction.

What do local and national planners get?

The Integrated Mental Health Atlas provides a new decision making tool for monitoring, reviewing and improving mental health systems of care in local areas. It comprises a standardised inventory of all the services providing care for people experiencing mental ill-health in local areas as well as a spatial analysis (Geographical Maps). This could be used for longitudinal and cross-sectional comparisons with other local areas, states, and worldwide. Atlases of healthcare based on this system are available in local areas in Europe (Austria, Finland, France, England, Spain, Italy, and Norway), Latin America (Chile) and now in several regions of Australia.  
Overtime additional data can be added to the Atlas to analyse types of service utilisation, types of interventions, efficiency, and health outcomes. This all contributes to evidence-informed policy and decision making and ultimately better mental health care for the community.