Community mental health through a complex systems lens

Researchers tend to evaluate the mental health effects of national trends and policies or of individual-level treatments and interventions. In The Lancet Public Health, VISION members Dr Olumide Adisa and Sally McManus argue that researchers also need to take account of what is happening at the local level.

Complex systems can be challenging both to action and evaluation. But it also offers a new way of thinking about real-life problems as experienced by diverse populations within local ecosystems. Olumide and Sally comment on a study by Tanith Rose and colleagues which shows that local economic and procurement strategies are a part of this complex system with implications for community health. Rose and colleagues show how local systems that are people-centred, redirect wealth back into the local economy, and give control and benefits to local people and institutions have the potential to improve health and reducing inequalities in a relatively short time.

A decade ago, statutory duties for public health moved from the National Health Service to local authorities, local authorities subsequently saw their budgets reduced. Finding ways to transition to a wellbeing economy through transforming local systems therefore needs multiple local partners, including employers, health and care institutions, specialist and police services, and public and not-for-profit organisations.  

The VISION consortium is developing ways to apply complex systems thinking to reducing violence and health inequalities, taking an intersectional and intersectoral approach that includes activities at the local level.

For further information please see: Community mental health through a complex systems lens – The Lancet Public Health

For more information, contact VISION lead on complex systems approach, Dr Olumide Adisa,

Photo by Chang Duong on Unsplash