Healthy living program: Improving the dietary behaviours of people with severe mental illness

Ms Hannah Olufson1

1Queensland Health

People living with severe mental illness (SMI) consume more energy dense, nutrient poor diets than the general population and have lower levels of nutrition literacy (Dipasquale et al., 2013; Teasdale et al., 2017). To provide comprehensive nutrition care, tailored to this population in a regional Queensland setting, a dietetics service was established in the community mental health service (CMHS). Initially the mode of service delivery was via individual, face-to-face dietitian appointments. Anecdotal evidence gained through these one-on-one sessions revealed that not only did consumers with SMI have limited nutrition knowledge and poor dietary behaviours, but they were often marginalised from society due to the symptoms and stigma of mental illness. As a result, a multifaceted group nutrition education program based on the Healthy Living Group, facilitated at a metropolitan facility, was initiated. The CMHS Healthy Living Program is a 6-week multidisciplinary, practical group education program, co-facilitated by a dietitian and occupational therapist. The program aims to improve participants’ dietary and lifestyle behaviours, and enhance social engagement and connectedness. Prior to implementation, the original program content and materials were adapted for the requirements of a regional setting through the engagement of key stakeholders including CMHS consumers with SMI and case managers. Evaluation data from pre- and post-implementation will be presented. This information will be gathered through a combination of qualitative feedback, as well as measures of dietary behaviours, intuitive eating, quality of life and readiness to change. Learnings and subsequent changes from the implementation of the program will also be highlighted.


1 Dipasquale, S., et al. (2013). The dietary pattern of patients with schizophrenia: a systematic review. J. Psychiatr. Res., 47(2), 197–207.

2 Teasdale, S.T., et al. (2017). Solving a weighty problem: Systematic review and meta-analysis of nutrition interventions in severe mental illness. Br. J. Psychiatry, 210(2), 110-118.


Hannah Olufson is a passionate Accredited Practicing Dietitian with a special interest in mental health. Hannah aspires to improve the nutrition related health outcomes of people with severe mental illness (SMI) through nutrition advocacy, education and research. She currently works as a sole dietitian within a regional community mental health service, through which she has led the development, implementation and evaluation of a new model of nutrition care. As part of this role, Hannah has initiated the Healthy Living Program. This is a multidisciplinary, practical group education program, aimed at improving dietary and lifestyle behaviours of people with SMI.

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