Integrating Physical Health, Mental Health & Human Rights

By Lorenzo Burti

The research Unit mainly addresses  factors necessary to create and successfully implement policy to promote the human rights, dignity and general health status of psychiatric patients. The Unit is involved in two multicentric three-year EU projects: ITHACA, recently closed and HELPS, in  its last stage. Currently, the PHYSICO protocol is ongoing, it address the physical health of mental patients and draws on the synergy between the South Verona Community Mental Health Service and the Department of Prevention (Ulss20 Verona)., resulting in the intervention program studied.  Moreover, the Unit is working on the Bio.Ve.D.A. project aiming to develop a register of eating-disorders taking advantage of the fact that the Unit of Psychotherapy, which hosts this Research Unit, has been appointed Regional Centre for Eating Disorders. Finally, Self-Help II, now in the phase of processing data, investigates the contribution of a large consumer self-help group, based in Verona, to improve participation of mental patients in society at large


Prof. Lorenzo Burti, Psychiatrist, Full Professor
Dr. Loretta Berti, Psychologist
Dr. Chiara Bonetto, Statistician
Dr. Elena Bonfioli, Psychologist
Dr. Antonella Coinu, Psychologist
Doriana Cristofalo, Data Manager
Dr. Mariangela Mazzi, Statistician
Dr. Silvia Pusceddu, Psychologist
Dr. Roberta Siani, Psychologist
Dr. Sarah Tosato, Psychiatrist, Research Fellow


HELPS (European Network for Promoting the Health of Residents in Psychiatric and Social Care Institutions)
This project aims at the development of a framework of empowerment focusing on the promotion of healthy living conditions in psychiatric care institutions and on the improvement of the physical health status of institutional residents with mental illness in the European Region. On the basis of this project staff members and residents of mental health care institutions should be enabled to identify routinely the most relevant physical health problems, to detect adverse (and protective) health relevant lifestyles, to choose and implement suitable health promoting strategies at the individual, the organisational and the environmental level. For this purpose the methods utilized are: international literature reviews; Delphi rounds with experts from participating countries and focus groups.
The project will develop, as its principal output, a toolkit on physical health promotion in mental health care settings which is suitable for application in a wide range of mental health care institutions across Europe.

PHYSICO (Physical co-morbidity, poor health behaviour and health promotion in South Verona patients with functional psychoses: a prevalence study and a randomised controlled Study)
The study includes two phases: the first phase aims at studying the prevalence of physical co-morbidity and health behaviour in patients with identified diagnoses in contact with the South-Verona Community Mental Health Service (CMHS); the second phase aims at implementing health promotion strategies related to dietary habits and physical exercise, and studying their efficacy with a randomised controlled study. The first phase includes the gathering of socio-demographic characteristics, physical conditions of interest and health behaviours related to diet and exercise, vital parameters, body mass index, measures of quality of life and satisfaction. Such information, associated with routine lab test indicated for the screening of metabolic conditions, ECG, will provide prevalence data to be compared with that of the general population. Accurate manualisation will make the toolkit usable by personnel without specific qualifications and available for dissemination.

BIOVEDA (BIObanca VEneta per i Disturbi dell'Alimentazione)
The project general objective is to develope a recording and monitoring system (RE.DI.AL., Register for Eating Disorders) of patients with eating disorders, in the framework of the activities of the Centro di Riferimento Regionale per i Disturbi del Comportamento Alimentare and in connection with a genetic biobank (BIO.VE.D.A, Veneto Biobank for Eating Disorders). For this purpose, specific objectives are: developing a basic evaluation form including all potentially relevant data besides clinical information already avalaible from routine; establishing a procedure to gather and preserve biological material, that adheres to national and international guidelines for the formation and accreditation of biobanks; lastly, the formation of a case register database, including data from REDIAL and linked with the biobank..

The study aims to investigate the contribution of a large consumer self-help group, based in Verona, to improve participation of mental patients in society at large. Specifically the objectives are: to describe the frequency of users' attendance to Self Help; to evaluate members' objectives; to evaluate the efficacy of the psychosocial program in meeting members' expectations; and to explore the possible role of the participation in the Self Help group regarding social and clinical outcomes. The research is based on users' opinions collected through a semi-structured interview and two more instruments, with the further aim of improving patients' active role.