Fit for Purpose—Re-Designing Australia’s Mental Health Information System

Sebastian Rosenberg, Luis Salvador-Carulla, Graham Meadows, Ian Hickie

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Monitoring and reporting mental health is complex. Australia’s first National Mental Health Strategy in 1992 included a new national commitment to accountability and data collection in mental health. This article provides a narrative review of thirty years of experience. Materials and Methods: This review considers key documents, policies, plans and strategies in relation to the evolution of mental health data and reporting. Documents produced by the Federal and the eight state and territory governments are considered, as well as publications produced by key information agencies, statutory authorities and others. A review of this literature demonstrates both its abundance and limitations. Results: Australia’s approach to mental health reporting is characterised by duplication and a lack of clarity. The data available fail to do justice to the mental health services provided in Australia. Mental health data collection and reporting processes are centrally driven, top–down and activity-focused, largely eschewing actual health outcomes, the social determinants of mental health. There is little, if any, link to clearly identifiable service user or carer priorities. Consequently, it is difficult to link this process longitudinally to clinical or systemic quality improvement. Initial links between the focus of national reform efforts and mental health data collection were evident, but these links have weakened over time. Changes to governance and reporting, including under COVID, have made the task of delivering accountability for mental health more difficult. Conclusion: Australia’s current approach is not fit for purpose. It is at a pivotal point in mental health reform, with new capacity to use modelled data to simulate prospective mental health reform options. By drawing on these new techniques and learning the lessons of the past, Australia (and other nations) can design and implement more effective systems of planning, reporting and accountability for mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4808
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume19
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022

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