Out of the shadows – World Bank & World Health Organisation on Mental Health

Guest blog from our Chairman Dr Paul LitchfieldDr Paul Litchfield

I have just attended a joint meeting of the World Bank and the World Health Organisation in Washington – the topic was mental health and the pressing need to make it a global development priority. It was good to see that mental illness is now, at last, being seen as part of the non-communicable disease crisis that is afflicting every part of the planet.

Margaret Chan, WHO Director General, flagged up recent research showing the global cost of anxiety and depression as being $1 trillion per year and  Jim Yong Kim, World Bank President, framed the issue as one of development and not just public health.

WHO & World Bank

The meeting, titled Out of the Shadows, sought to shine a light on a subject still characterised in many parts of the world by fear, stigma and neglect. Even in the “developed” world the imbalance of resources devoted to mental health compared to physical health is stark. Innovative models of service delivery were showcased from around the world and ranged from individual placement and support in the most deprived communities to high tech psychological therapies.

Workplace interventions are of particular interest to me but progress in that area seems remarkably slow. There appears to be a widespread reluctance by many health professionals to engage with the private sector, even in relation to companies’ own employees. Perhaps that is a reflection of a lack of shared experience and language but some of it also appears to be driven by political dogma which has no place in responding to human distress and misery.

It is heartening to see the progress that has been made in addressing mental illness over the past 30 years. There remains much to do but the profile the issues now have and the range of key players that see the need for action gives cause for hope. The downside is that the positive aspects of good mental health and wellbeing are only mentioned briefly in any discussion before the focus shifts entirely to illness and healthcare systems. The medical model of health that has dominated the past 100 years is not sustainable. Spending 17.5% of GDP on healthcare (as the USA did in 2014) diverts resources from other essential areas and untold harm will be caused to emerging economies that try to emulate the model.

We need to not only accept and address the social determinants of disease but also to reframe political thinking to consider citizens’ wellbeing as the priority. Having a positive – wellbeing – as the end point aspired to is much more motivational than the simple avoidance of harm – illness. Promoting the elements that have been shown to improve wellbeing will reduce ill health while at the same time advancing human happiness and societal progress. That has to be a better framework than one based on the fear of pestilence – whether that is physical or mental.

Dr Paul Litchfield

World Economic ForumAlso launched at the conference is the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Mental Health and their new guide for improving wellbeing at work.

Seven Steps Guide towards a Mentally Healthy Organisation

 

You may also like 

→ E-course on wellbeing in policy & practice

→ Case Studies wellbeing at work 

→ Wellbeing in the UK data

Videos from our launch events 29th October 2014 – Part 1 London

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing was announced by our interim Chair Lord Gus O’Donnell on 29th October 2014 at two events, in London and Bristol.  Here are the video of the speakers from the London part of the day with sessions from:

  • Lord O’Donnell chair of the centre’s development group
  • BIS Minister Jo Swinson
  • BT’s Group Director Wellbeing Dr Paul Litchfield
  • Professor Kevin Fenton from Pubilc Health England
  • Government’s National What Works Advisor Dr David Halpern
  • Chief Executive of the Economic and Social Research Council Professor Jane Elliot

Also published for the London part of the event on the 29th was BIS research into the drivers of workplace wellbeing and its links with business performance and the ESRC specifications for the Centre’s evidence programme.

What can I do?

Announcement of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing Lord Gus O’Donnell, Chair of development group for the Centre

Employee wellbeing and productivity  Jo Swinson, Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs

Wellbeing – A company approach  Dr Paul Litchfield, Group Director Wellbeing, BT  

Wellbeing and public health  Prof Kevin Fenton, National Director Health and Wellbeing, Public Health England 

What works centres  Dr David Halpern, What Works National Advisor 

Getting impact from research Prof Jane Elliott, Chief Executive Economic Social Research Council

What Works Centre for Wellbeing announced today

Lord Gus OGus‘Donnell has announced that a new ‘What Works Centre for Wellbeing’ is being set up to bring together evidence about what works to improve wellbeing and to put that evidence into the hands of those that need it to make decisions.

The establishment of an independent What Works Centre for Wellbeing builds on the ONS Measuring National Wellbeing Programme and the Commission on Wellbeing and Policy. The Centre joins a network of independent What Works Centres that are responsible for distilling and sharing the evidence to support decision making.

The Centre is a collaboration and has initial funding of over £3.5million over three years, in-kind resourcing and the support of a broad group of founding partners.  Today’s announcement is in partnership with BT, Happy City and Bristol City Council.

Also published today are:

Why What Workswhat works network logo

The What Works Initiative is based on the principle that good decision-making should be informed by the best available evidence on what works and what does not. It aims to improve public services for people and communities by ensuring that resources are focused on those things which will have the greatest positive impact.

What Works Centres are fundamentally different from standard research centres. They aim to directly support policy makers, commissioners and local practitioners by providing reliable, accessible products which communicate the likely impact of real policy initiatives, and building professional capacity to use evidence effectively.

There are now nine Independent What Works Centres, including one in Scotland and one in Wales, supported by a combination of ESRC, Government, and charitable funding.

Why Wellbeing

Fundamentally, wellbeing is about quality of life and creating the conditions for people to live better lives. The Centre will bring together the best available evidence of the practical action that can be taken to increase wellbeing.

Locally

Wellbeing is an increasing part of policy and practice across a range of sectors and is important to the Scottish and Welsh Governments and Northern Ireland Executive, as well as major funders and commissioners such as the BIG Lottery Fund and local authorities including Health and Wellbeing boards. Employers are focusing on wellbeing in the workplace and its links to productivity and engagement. There is a growing interest in the social return on investment, with evaluation, innovation and collaboration fundamental to making the most of scare resources.

This rapidly developing field has many pioneering leaders and practitioners keen to connect up, share their work, learn from others, build the evidence base and bringing together the fragmented project and pilot evaluations into a meaningful, reliable, easy to navigate source. A strong credible evidence base can support those in the wellbeing field to be able to make their case for change, support bids and business cases and focus their efforts for the biggest impact.

Nationally

The UK is regarded as one of the leading countries on wellbeing. In November 2010, David Cameron launched the Measuring National Wellbeing Programme undertaken by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Following a national debate asking people across the UK what matters most to them, ONS developed a measurement framework for wellbeing comprising 10 domains including personal wellbeing. Personal wellbeing data is now available for every local authority area across the UK.

Internationally

The OECD, WHO, the UN and the European Commission are all significantly engaged in wellbeing. A central focus of this international interest is on how societies, governments, communities and populations measure their progress, economic and social, recognising the limits of GDP as an indicator of economic performance and social progress.

About What Works Centres

What Works Centre is independent of government with a clear and relevant policy and delivery focus. The functions of a Centre are to:

  • Undertake systematic assessment of relevant evidence and produce a sound, accurate, clear and actionable synthesis of the global evidence base which:
    • Assesses and ranks interventions on the basis of effectiveness and cost effectiveness
    • Shows applicability
    • Shows the relative cost of interventions
    • Shows the strength of evidence on an agreed scale
  • Put the needs and interests of users and stakeholders at the heart of shaping a workplan
  • Advise those commissioning and undertaking innovative interventions and research projects to ensure that their work can be evaluated effectively
  • Publish and disseminate findings in a format that can be understood, interpreted and acted upon
  • To help produce a common currency for comparing the effectiveness of interventions
  • Identify research and capability gaps and work with partners to fill them

What next

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing is being set up by a development group of the founding partners, chaired by Lord Gus O’Donnell. The centre will be an independent body and a Chair, Board and staff for the centre will be recruited. The ESRC will commission the Centre’s evidence programmes and Public Health England are hosting the development team for the Centre until it is established.

→ what can I do?