Barriers to uptake of low intensity digital mental health apps and online programs in Allied Health. Defining the Policy Landscape

Dr Ruth Crowther1, Mrs Heidi Sturk1

1Queensland University Of Technology (QUT), South Brisbane, Australia

Globally, a considerable amount of funding has been invested in the development and delivery of low intensity, digital interventions for mild to moderate mental health issues. Despite such investment however, countries have achieved varying levels of success in increasing the uptake of these interventions, despite the ever increasing and compelling evidence base for their effectiveness.

In the Australian context the National Mental Health Commission’s Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services reported that digital services had been poorly integrated and difficult for people to access and navigate. In response, the Department of Health invested $4.7 million for 2018/2019 towards ongoing development and refinement of the digital gateway Head to Health, with a key aim being to increase awareness and uptake of digital mental health apps and programs.

Despite this increase in funding and the work of eMHPrac partners in providing training in selection and utilisation of digital mental health resources in clinical practice for all health professions, uptake appears to be slow with ongoing barriers being reported.  A challenge remains that much of the evidence showing effectiveness of digital interventions does not necessarily provide information on how such interventions can be embedded effectively within the existing health system. Yet, mental health experts and advocates remain optimistic that digital mental health programs have huge potential to enhance accessibility and increase cost-efficiency of services, whilst overcoming geographic obstacles to service utilisation and promoting consumer empowerment.

This presentation will therefore consider the current policy landscape and the systemic challenges associated with removing existing barriers and increasing uptake of low intensity digital interventions in Australia. It will draw upon the policy drivers and organisational factors that have been shown to be effective in other parts of the world, specifically the UK, Sweden and the US, and consider their application in our unique Australian context.


Dr Ruth Crowther is a Senior Research Fellow on the eMHPrac (e-Mental Health in Practice) project. Ruth’s role is to develop, deliver and evaluate national training on digital mental health resources to allied health practitioners and service providers. Her research interests include the integration of digital mental health resources into healthcare, and effective implementation of evidence based mental health policy. Ruth has over twenty years experience in applied mental health research, public health and teaching in both the UK and Australia and is a member of the APS E-Psychology and Buddhism and Psychology Interest Groups.

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