Scattergood Foundation

Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health

International Bipolar Foundation

Name of Innovative Program: 
Behavioral Health Peer Support
Sponsoring Organization
International Bipolar Foundation
Name of Innovative Program Lead: 
Muffy Walker
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead: 
mwalker.ibpf@gmail.com
Physical Address of Innovative Program: 
11622 El Camino Real #100, San Diego, CA 92130
Project Description: 

The free, online Behavioral Health Quality of Life Tool (BHQL) is used to empower people struggling with mental illnesses to assess the associated risks of their current lifestyle choices and encourage them to embrace lifestyle changes to lead longer, healthier lives. The BHQL tool –http://ibpf.org/bhqlt – is a detailed survey that identifies a user’s unhealthy habits and provides individualized suggestions for a healthier lifestyle, such as smoking cessation and weight loss.

How does the innovative program work to improve behavioral health access?: 

The BHQL tool provides access by eliminating barriers to health care due to cost and stigma; as the tool is free and 100% private and confidential. For those consumers wishing to engage further with IBPF, we offer no-cost resources, programs and referrals to educational and provider services on an international basis.

How does the innovative program work to improve behavioral health quality? : 

People with mental illness are more likely to suffer from a range of damaging health issues, including heart disease, diabetes and hypertension, and they are less likely to go for medical appointments and follow up care. Research has shown that the prevalence of cigarette smoking among individuals with bipolar disorder is two to three times higher than the rate in the general population, and that more than 80% of people with serious mental illnesses are overweight or obese, which contributes to them dying at three times the rate of the overall population.

The free BHQL tool and its accompanying treatment plans teach the user about healthy life style choices and educate about the need for wellness and follow up care. Many of those with a mental illness are less likely to leave their homes to seek treatment. The BHQL can be used privately and confidentially in ones’ home.

How does the innovative program work to address behavioral health costs? : 

According to the World Health Organization, the cost for mental illness in 2010 equated to $2.6 trillion! But unlike cancer, much of the burden is a range of indirect costs due to chronic disability that begins early in life. A significant percentage of which is due to high rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. What makes these numbers so important, is they can be reduced by providing low cost interventions to address the interplay with other chronic diseases. Educating the consumer, offering free actionable health plans with peer specialist follow-up (to dissuade drop out), as well as being “in tune” with the challenges of struggling with a Serious Mental Illness will increase overall individual(s) health and decrease the demand for services. 

Creativity and Innovation: 

Life expectancy increased dramatically in the U.S., from 51 in 1910 to nearly 79 years by 2012. Unfortunately, these advances in the general population do not translate to those struggling with Serious Mental Illness, whose life expectancy still lags well behind according to the NIH. In a groundbreaking 2015 study of mortality statistics cited by the NIMH,  the median reduction in life expectancy among those with mental illness was 10.1 years, and that 8 million people prematurely die each year as a result of their mental illness. 

Because stigma associated with mental illness is a barrier to treatment and those with a mental illness are less likely to leave their homes to seek it, IBPF sought to deliver a free service to empower people struggling with mental illnesses to assess the associated risks of their current lifestyle choices and encourage them to embrace lifestyle changes to lead longer, healthier lives.

Leadership: 

The web link necessary for the BHQL tool is free. Mental health organizations around the world have been invited to use the link and asked to provide feedback on its content relative to their stakeholders. Phase II includes translation of the tool and its treatment plans into the top five languages. Organizations focused on physical health related issues (diabetes, heart disease, etc.) have also been invited to share the tool since the treatment plans are applicable.

Sustainability: 

The Lake Nona Institute (a nonprofit, community-focused organization that incubates, activates and measures the impact of innovative technologies and programs that can become global models for building healthy, sustainable and inspired communities) partnered with IBPF to bring the tool to fruition. The availability of the free tool was announced at their 2016 Impact Forum, where the nation’s top thought leaders in health and wellness gather to discuss and develop actionable solutions to improve health, wellness and sustainable living. Several partnerships have since developed to add a Peer Support Program and for the tool to be available as an app.  

Partnerships with wearable trackers (e.g. FitBit) are being sought.

Replicability: 

The tool is a web-based link, which is available and free for anyone to use. 

Results/Outcomes: 

-   Our online analytics provide us data regarding how many people participate and from where they come.

-   The user can opt into a weekly health newsletter, which we can track.

-   When the Peer Specialist Program is launched, specific benchmarks will be identified including participation, attrition, and personal goals met (lost weight, quit smoking, etc.). Peer Support Programs have been demonstrated to reduce symptoms, create commitment to treatment plans and goals, improve peer's quality of life and lower health care costs.

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