Active8: Promoting Health Beyond the Absence of Mental Illness

The 2018 Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium will be held this month over 15-17 October at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart, Tasmania.

Joining us at the conference is Ms Keren Wolstencroft, Research Coordinator at Neami National who will present on Active8: Promoting Health Beyond the Absence of Mental Illness’.


People living with a mental illness are several times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer, heart disease and diabetes and life expectancy is several years less. Neami National is one of over 50 organisations that have agreed to the Australian Governments ‘Equally Well’ consensus statement, which promotes a holistic and whole of life response across systems to seriously address these unacceptable inequities in health.

Active8 is a program developed by Neami National as part of a response which supports participants to identity and work on health-related goals, improve their health literacy, engage with health services and develop greater health behaviour self-management skills. The Activ8 program has been funded by south eastern NSW Primary Health Network COORDINARE and is currently being delivered in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven regional areas of NSW.

Active8 adapts two projects previously trialled across Australian sites to provide a complementary program of individual and group-based health behaviour supports. Eat, Plant, Learn is a seven-week group-based program aimed at building healthy eating skills. Coaching for Health offers six one-on-one sessions with a trained ‘peer coach’. Coaching emphasizes collaboration to create pathways for sustainable change. In the context of this program, a person’s physical health goals are developed according to their individual aspirations and contexts with reference to local resources and opportunities. Peer coaches selectively use their personal experience of illness and recovery to inspire hope, self-determination and reduce stigma.

In this presentation we share findings from ongoing monitoring activities and a recent formative program evaluation exercise. Utilising a ‘Most Significant Change’ approach we examined change stories from key stakeholders involved in implementation, referring, accessing and delivering the Active8 program. The findings provide insight into what is transpiring in terms of change, impact and challenges at the individual, program delivery and health systems levels.

Key Learnings:
1. How a coaching approach can bridge the gap between individual aspirations and local resources.
2. The role of 'peer coaches' in supporting hope and self-determination for change.
3. Navigating challenges at the individual, program delivery and health systems levels.


Dr Priscilla Ennals is the Senior Manager of Research and Evaluation at Neami National. She is an occupational therapist with clinical and research expertise in mental health and ill‐health.

For more information on the upcoming 2018 Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium please visit

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