WHO invites Health Literacy Initiative to join global network

Wednesday, 10 February, 2021

WHO invites Health Literacy Initiative to join global network

The Mental Health Commission of NSW will join the World Health Organization (WHO) in a global network to improve community health literacy.

Created in partnership with Swinburne University of Technology, the University of New South Wales and the University of Newcastle, the Commission’s Health Literacy Initiative is one of the largest and most ambitious mental health projects ever undertaken in Australia, aiming to create and scale up better understanding of and simpler access to mental health services.

The WHO invitation means the results of that work will become part of an international campaign to develop clearer, more effective strategies for mental health and other chronic diseases to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The Commonwealth-funded Health Literacy Initiative brings together those with lived experience of mental health issues, carers and a wide range of mental health experts, workers and other health professionals to identify ways to improve services, a major part of the Commission’s responsibilities. It also puts user-driven ideas and solutions into practice.

“This is a world first and the largest initiative of its kind ever attempted,” NSW Mental Health Commissioner Catherine Lourey said. “Never before has anyone conducted a community-led co-design of a mental health system on this scale. An invitation from WHO to become part of its global network working on health literacy is both an honour and a privilege.”

Lourey said the Health Literacy Initiative has engaged over 1000 respondents across more than 100 organisations and aims to improve communication and clear understanding about mental health care services across the state.

“Health literacy isn’t just about reading and writing,” she said. “It’s about knowledge and understanding. It means clear communication about how, when and where people can access help and care when they need it most.”

The Health Literacy Initiative has drawn experts from across the mental health sector, including service providers, local health professionals, clinicians and people with lived experience of mental health issues to create a roadmap to better mental health and wellbeing.

“We need to provide an environment in which people feel safe and respected so that, when they reach out for help, they get the right information in a compassionate way, and a way that makes sense, so that they can be the leaders in their own mental health journey,” Lourey explained. “It’s important to know that this is an evidence-based approach that will provide a plan for regions and local communities across the state.”

The Commission engaged a team of global experts in health literacy for the project, headed by Professor Richard Osborne from Victoria’s Swinburne University of Technology.

“This is an amazingly in-depth and comprehensive community engagement project. We are getting such valuable input from the hearts and minds of people with lived experience, and their carers, as well as from frontline professionals and community groups,” Professor Osborne said.

“This project is set to deliver what is needed and wanted by so many people across NSW and promises to leave no one behind. It is an important WHO demonstration project and will inform other states and other countries.”

Any community members who are concerned about their own or a loved one’s mental health are encouraged to speak with trusted support services such as a family GP. Alternatively, find local services via Wayahead’s NSW Mental Health Service Directory or call one of the following support lines:

  • BEING Supported Mental Health Peer Support Line: 1800 151 151
  • NSW Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511
  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
  • Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Creativa Images

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