European network for promoting the physical health of residents in psychiatric and social care facilities (HELPS): background, aims and methods

Weiser, Prisca; Becker, Thomas; Losert, Carolin; Alptekin, Köksal; Berti, Loretta; Burti, Lorenzo; Burton, Alexandra; Dernovsek, Mojca; Dragomirecka, Eva; Freidl, Marion; Friedrich, Fabian; Genova, Aneta; Germanavicius, Arunas; Halis, Ulaş; Henderson, John; Hjorth, Peter; Lai, Taavi; Larsen, Jens Ivar; Lech, Katarzyna; Lucas, Ramona
January 2009
BMC Public Health;2009, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p315
Academic Journal
Background: People with mental disorders have a higher prevalence of physical illnesses and reduced life expectancy as compared with the general population. However, there is a lack of knowledge across Europe concerning interventions that aim at reducing somatic morbidity and excess mortality by promoting behaviour-based and/or environment-based interventions. Methods and design: HELPS is an interdisciplinary European network that aims at (i) gathering relevant knowledge on physical illness in people with mental illness, (ii) identifying health promotion initiatives in European countries that meet country-specific needs, and (iii) at identifying best practice across Europe. Criteria for best practice will include evidence on the efficacy of physical health interventions and of their effectiveness in routine care, cost implications and feasibility for adaptation and implementation of interventions across different settings in Europe. HELPS will develop and implement a "physical health promotion toolkit". The toolkit will provide information to empower residents and staff to identify the most relevant risk factors in their specific context and to select the most appropriate action out of a range of defined health promoting interventions. The key methods are (a) stakeholder analysis, (b) international literature reviews, (c) Delphi rounds with experts from participating centres, and (d) focus groups with staff and residents of mental health care facilities. Meanwhile a multi-disciplinary network consisting of 15 European countries has been established and took up the work. As one main result of the project they expect that a widespread use of the HELPS toolkit could have a significant positive effect on the physical health status of residents of mental health and social care facilities, as well as to hold resonance for community dwelling people with mental health problems. Discussion: A general strategy on health promotion for people with mental disorders must take into account behavioural, environmental and iatrogenic health risks. A European health promotion toolkit needs to consider heterogeneity of mental disorders, the multitude of physical health problems, health-relevant behaviour, health-related attitudes, health-relevant living conditions, and resource levels in mental health and social care facilities.


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