28 September 2023

Three research teams will share in over $5.1 million in targeted funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to investigate ways to improve the physical health of people with mental illness.

People living with mental illness, particularly severe mental illnesses, are more likely to develop comorbidities pertained to physical illness and be hospitalised for potentially preventable reasons.

There is a growing need for research to inform how the physical health of people living with mental illness can be improved.

The Targeted Call for Research (TCR)—Improving physical health of people with a mental illness aims to stimulate research that develops effective strategies which will improve the health of people living with a severe mental illness.

Professor Jackie Curtis of the University of New South Wales and her team will receive over $2.9 million for a co-produced Integrated Peer-Supported Physical Health Service (IPPHS) that will be designed so that no-one misses out on holistic, person-centred health care by meeting the person wherever they are at in the healthcare system.

Professor Curtis said that IPPHS will offer support through peer-worker health coaching, general practitioner support and a mobile phone application.

'More importantly, IPPHS will facilitate transition to a Medicare-supported general practitioner in the community for long-term physical health care.' said Professor Curtis.

Other funding announced today includes:

  • Dr Alyssa Milton and her collaborators from the University of Sydney will receive nearly $1.2 million and are set to build and test a world-first peer-supported digital app (SiMPliCITy) that promotes self-care strategies to address the physical health needs of people with schizophrenia using mental health services.
  • Professor Russell Roberts and his team from Charles Sturt University will receive over $969,000 for their four-stage research project, to investigate, research, understand and support the rural mental health worker’s need to provide good care, and then use the findings to inform a codesigned model of physical health care, navigation and testing the effectiveness in rural towns.

NHMRC’s TCR grant scheme is designed to stimulate research or build research capacity to address a specific health issue where there is a significant knowledge gap or unmet need.

All the funding details announced today can be available on NHMRC’s outcomes of funding founds webpage.

Quotes attributable to NHRMC CEO Professor Steve Wesselingh:

  • 'People living with mental illness, particularly severe mental illness like schizophrenia, are more likely to develop poor physical health.'
  • 'The three projects funded today focus on co-design and peer-support models to help people living with mental illness access effective health care services.'
  • 'The outcomes of this research will inform the development of policies, health services and models of care that effectively manage and support people with coexisting mental and physical health conditions.'