The Integrated Health Care Atlases are structured service assessment and decision support tools that collect standardised information about specialized mental health services in a particular area and present it visually using Geographical Information Systems (GIS). Atlases support evidence-informed policy and planning that takes local factors into account and can clearly identify unwanted variations in care provision including disparities in service access, comparison between small health areas, highlighting variations of care, and detecting gaps in the provision of services. The integrated atlases of care were built using a standardized taxonomy which allows comparisons between different geo-demographic areas. They provide a unique picture of the services available by PHNs to individuals with a lived experience of mental illness, including residential care, outpatient care, services facilitating accessibility to care for patients with long term care needs, facilities that provide patients with information and/or assessment of their needs, and self-help and voluntary care. In addition, they do not only map services provided by the public health sector but also by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), by family and community services (FACs) and by the justice system.
To date 10 local Atlases of MH care have been developed in Australia: 5 Atlases have been produced by University of Sydney, 3 by ConNetica, and 4 are in progress or have been completed but not released. They cover mapping of approximately 42% of the Australia’s population.