Pacific mental health expert scoops national leadership award

14 Aug, 2017
Pacific mental health expert scoops national leadership award
Dr Monique Faleafa receives the 2017 eHealth Innovation Leadership Award; presented by Clive Nelson of the HPA (above) on behalf of AUT’s Centre for eHealth

Dr Monique Faleafa was last week named winner of the 2017 eHealth Innovation Leadership Award by AUT’s Centre for eHealth.

The award is conferred annually to a recipient who embodies innovation, implementation and forward thinking leadership in eHealth in New Zealand, and the Centre’s awards committee was unanimous in their selection of Dr Faleafa, Chief Executive of Le Va.

“Monique is a wonderful example of leadership of health innovation that is deeply engaged with end users,” says Associate Professor Duncan Babbage, Director of AUT’s Centre for eHealth.

“Her values and commitment shine, she champions an evidence-based approach, and her excellent co-design of initiatives with underserved end-users have together led to new ways of achieving health and wellness. This has delivered positive outcomes for people who have often not accessed help in the past.”

Her outstanding leadership is evident in the success of the Aunty Dee app, a free digital wellbeing tool targeting youth, which was launched by Le Va in April 2016. The online tool uses structured problem solving based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) principles, to guide users in working through concerns, brainstorming ideas to find a solution, and writing action plans that can be downloaded and shared with others.

Dr Faleafa sees the award as a major win for the Aunty Dee team. "I'm thrilled to receive this award, especially because I see it as acknowledgement of the hundreds of people who contributed to the Aunty Dee app – in particular our Māori & Pacific young people,” she says. “The 18 month co-design process was huge, and this award is really big ups to them."

Dr Faleafa’s leadership in collaborating and co-designing with Pacific and Māori youth and communities was praised by the awards committee, as was her success in rolling out a successful tool. Over the last 12 months, 61% of users have rated their mood as better after engaging with Aunty Dee, and it has also proven popular with non-youth users.

“As if her work with Pacifika and Māori youth was not enough, the tools and approaches are already being taken up and are providing positive outcomes for people from across the entire New Zealand population,” says Associate Professor Babbage.

The award was announced at the AUT Centre for eHealth’s annual eMental Health Expert Forum, which showcases the latest in eMental Health implementation science developments. The Centre champions change in the health and wellbeing of people and communities, with a particular emphasis on the use of innovative tools and technology to achieve transformational gains in healthcare.

This year’s forum was opened by the President of the World Psychiatric Association, Professor Dinesh Bhugra, who spoke of the need to elevate the focus on mental health care. “Mental health needs to be treated as a public health issue. Greater funding equity between physical and mental health is required,” he says.

He emphasised the value of eMental Health approaches in achieving vital integration of physical and mental health care, primary and secondary care, and mental health and social care – all at a fraction of the cost of traditional healthcare models, and in keeping with communities’ care preferences.

“The evidence tells us people want holistic, integrated, person-centred care that’s easy to access, recovery-based, locally relevant and free of stigma.”