An online seminar series on decision support for health systems after COVID-19 which is designed to provide an open, transparent platform for sharing models, methodologies and data to enable participants to discuss and learn from one another and spark new ideas.
Our first topic was:
Tackling the mental health impacts of COVID-19 and economic recession: Insights from systems modelling of strategic policy responses in Australia
Presented by: Associate Professor Jo-An Atkinson, Professor Ian Hickie and Dr Adam Skinner, University of Sydney
The COVID-19 pandemic has precipitated twin public health and economic adversities that are undermining health, housing, livelihoods, futures, and mental health and wellbeing at a scale not seen in almost a century. It is well established that recessions are associated with increases in psychological distress and higher prevalence of mental disorders, substance misuse and suicidal behavior. Uncertainty regarding how the COVID-19 pandemic will evolve, with associated lockdowns, physical distancing, and quarantine measures, is also driving uncertainty around the extent and duration of the resulting economic breakdown, further exacerbating psychological distress and mental health problems. Will governments act to proactively mitigate the impending mental health crisis, and if so when, how, and will it be enough? Will the ‘mental health curve’ overwhelm the system? What combination of initiatives or reforms should be prioritized? How will social protection measures interact with population mental health measures to influence mental health outcomes? What targeting, timing, scale, frequency, and intensity of investments are needed? What impacts should we expect from those investments? How long do programs and initiatives need to be kept in place? Will there be rebound effects when they are removed? Will there be unintended consequences? The decisions made now will impact people’s lives in fundamental ways for many years to come. We need to use the best decision analytic tools available to better understand how to design and invest in our complex health and social systems to deliver the best outcomes.
Systems modelling is uniquely able to capture population dynamics, changes over time in social and economic drivers of psychological distress, mental disorders and suicidal behaviors (including feedback loops), workforce dynamics and the changing relationship between service supply versus demand, and the potentially non-additive (interacting) effects of intervention combinations; factors that bedevil traditional analytic approaches. The Brain & Mind Centre of the University of Sydney has developed the first prototypic national systems model of mental health and suicide that incorporates the feedbacks between the economy, mental health, and policy responses. This interactive decision support tool is providing essential capability to monitor, forecast and inform rapid and effective responses to downturns in population mental health, and continuously reassess the likely performance of investments and actions over the short and long term. This seminar will provide an overview of the model and insights generated.