Project explores physical health needs of people with schizophrenia and related disorders

A multidisciplinary team from UNSW Sydney, South Western Sydney Local Health District, St Vincent’s Hospital and NSW Health’s Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network, is looking to understand the health outcomes and needs of people with schizophrenia and related disorders. 

Addressing preventable disease burden to improve health outcomes for people with schizophrenia and related psychoses, will research rates and predictors of death in people with schizophrenia and compare these to the general population, to understand risks and improve outcomes. 

Professor Julian Trollor was awarded $40,000 for this project in the 2018 round of UNSW Medicine Neuroscience, Mental Health and Addiction Theme and SPHERE Clinical Academic Group (CAG) Collaborative Research Seed Funding

image - Project explores physical health needs of people with schizophrenia and related disorders

Name: Professor Julian Trollor

Position: Chair, Intellectual Disability Mental Health, School of Psychiatry
Head, Department of Developmental Disability Neuropsychiatry
 
How has the Neuroscience, Mental Health and Addiction Theme and Clinical Academic Group (CAG) enabled you to develop your research interests? 

I am fortunate to lead a passionate team at the Department of Developmental Disability Neuropsychiatry which conducts an inclusive research program using a variety of research methodologies. We are a team that is outwardly focused, and actively seeks collaborations and knowledge exchange. The Neuroscience, Mental Health and Addiction Theme and CAG has enabled us to form new links with clinicians and academics. These have been exciting, and mutually beneficial. We are hoping to put our collective skills to good use, and to help in the understanding of the drivers and solutions to the poor physical health of people with schizophrenia and related disorders

Your project, Addressing preventable disease burden to improve health outcomes for people with schizophrenia and related psychoses, was successful in the 2018 round of Theme and CAG Collaborative Research Seed Funding. Can you please tell us about the project? 

For some time, my team has been using Big Data to understand the health and health service needs of people with intellectual disability. This work has really helped to shine a light on unmet physical and mental health needs, including factors driving the higher risk of death and potentially avoidable deaths experienced by this group. 

Recently we have been using the data to understand the health needs of other groups, including people on the autism spectrum, people with intellectual disability in contact with the criminal justice system and people with dementia. 

We were delighted to receive seed funding in the 2018 Theme and CAG Collaborative Research round. This will allow us to start work on another area- understanding the health outcomes and needs of people with schizophrenia and related disorders. This work is important- it has long been recognised that people with schizophrenia experience poor physical health, but the key drivers of this, and the relationships between health conditions, are not very well known. 

What impact do you imagine the project will have? 

For this initial research will look specifically at physical health needs of people with schizophrenia and related disorders. We will be finding out rates of different diseases such as cancers, injuries cardiovascular, respiratory, infective, neurological, psychiatric (other than psychotic disorders), and endocrine diseases and will be able to look at how often people present to services with self-injury and accidents. We will be able to research rates of death and predictors of death in people with schizophrenia and compare these to the general population. Finding out these things is the first step in understanding risks and what can be done about them to improve outcomes for people with schizophrenia and related disorders.

In the future we hope to build on this work and obtain further funding to investigate in more depth the experience of people with schizophrenia in different parts of the health service system, including: in emergency departments and outpatients, during inpatient stays, and what is happening in the community such as with their GP and treating specialists, and with medication use.

How will the project support new collaborations? 

We have been fortunate to be able to bring together a team from UNSW Medicine, South East Sydney Local Health District, South Western Sydney Local Health District, St Vincent’s Hospital, and NSW Health’s Justice and Forensic Mental Health Network. We are a multidisciplinary team and bring a unique combination of skills and knowledge. Working with such a group means that we share ideas and enrich one-another’s approach along the way. We hope that this team will form the basis for future grant applications that focus on improving physical health in people with schizophrenia and related disorders

image - Project explores physical health needs of people with schizophrenia and related disorders