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Developing an Evidence-Based Specialist Nursing Role to Improve the Physical Health Care of People with Mental Illness

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The substantial physical health disadvantage experienced by people diagnosed with mental illness is now identified in a growing body of research evidence. The recent promulgation of improved physical health care as a goal of contemporary Australian Mental Health Policy should provide impetus for initiatives and strategies to address this inequity. To date increased knowledge of the problem has not resulted in obvious and sustained changes. The aim of this article is to introduce the role of the Physical Health Nurse Consultant as a potential strategy. The potential contribution and value of this role is considered by reviewing the evidence from the perspective of multiple stakeholders and considering the suitability of nursing to meet the complex needs involved in improving physical health. The requirement for a multi-faceted and comprehensive evaluation is also articulated. A robust, prospective and long-term evaluation plan includes physical health measures, changes in health behaviours, cost-benefit analysis and consumer acceptability to ensure the intervention is effective in the long term. This thorough approach is essential to provide the level of evidence required to facilitate changes at the practice and policy levels. The specialist nursing role presented in this article, subject to the comprehensive evaluation proposed, could become an integral component of a comprehensive approach to addressing physical health inequities in people with mental illness.




Happell, B., Platania-Phung, C., Watkins, A., Scholz, B., Curtis, J., Goss, J., … Stanton, R. (2019). Developing an Evidence-Based Specialist Nursing Role to Improve the Physical Health Care of People with Mental Illness. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 40(10), 832–838.

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