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Treating mind and body

Challening physicians to take responsibility for their patients' physical and mental health

People with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease compared with the general population. A major contributor to this is the increased prevalence of obesity and diabetes among these individuals, which is a significant public health issue. Despite this, patients with severe mental illness will not receive the same quality of care as the general population, including testing and treatment, which would improve their health. Psychiatrists across the world have tended to treat their patients from the neck up. 

The Controversies in Psychiatry '07 and '08 meetings developed by Pfizer and FD Santé, were a series of meetings to highlight the controversy at the heart of psychiatry – the epidemic of cardiovascular disease among people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and to challenge psychiatrists to take responsibility for their patients' physical health, as well as their mental health.

The meetings aimed to reach a critical mass of European psychiatrists and challenge them to treat patients holistically. A bold educational approach was taken by facilitating debate of key issues with international experts under the "Controversies in Psychiatry" banner. The consequences of poor physical health were also underlined. The dual approach of debate and controversy reflected the importance of managing both mental and physical health.

Controversies in Psychiatry meeting taking place

The meetings highlighted the epidemic of CV among people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder


The opinions of international thought-leaders in psychiatry were canvassed to establish the key areas of educational need and the input of Pfizer affiliates across Europe was sought to identify local psychiatrists to invite.

Controversies in Psychiatry '07 was one of a kind – a series of four back-to-back roadshows held across mainland Europe in four days, involving 350 psychiatrists  from 14 countries. 

The roadshow format was chosen to meet the needs of Pfizer affiliates and bring the event to key countries so that a large numbers of psychiatrists could attend. 

Two 'controversies' were presented as debates in order to challenge psychiatrists' decision-making processes and help them to take responsibility for both their patients' physical and mental health and to fully comprehend how their treatment choices could impact on the physical health of their patients.

After the success of the meetings and following extensive feedback, it was felt that the programme should reflect the fact that patient and carers need to play a larger role in management decisions. For Controversies in Psychiatry '08 an innovative and thought-provoking format was developed and the meeting was held in one location. 

Three hundred psychiatrists from 13 European countries attended this two-day meeting. On the first day, a mock court room was staged in which psychiatrists were 'put on trial' by diabetes specialists and accused of paying little attention to their patients' physical health. For day two, the audience was then invited to participate in a talk show where patients confronted psychiatrists about their treatment choices.  

The faculty was comprised of internationally renowned experts from the EU and the US, including the President of GAMIAN-Europe, Europe's leading patient group and the Executive Director of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD).

The audience played an active and central role in the meeting with opinions aired to the judge and talk show host. This, and the real-life patient and carer case studies performed by actors, helped challenge the audience to think differently. 

Results and evaluation
Following Controversies in Psychiatry '07 and '08:
• 650 psychiatrists from 18 countries participated in the meetings and were challenged to think differently about the way they treat patients
• Nine out of 10 psychiatrists said that they would do more monitoring of physical health conditions
• Nine out of 10 psychiatrists believed that involving patient and carers in the management of severe mental illness would improve patient outcomes
• Eight out of 10 psychiatrists agreed the focus of management in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder should be both symptom control and reduction of cardiometabolic risk
• Materials were disseminated to the Pfizer affiliates for a cascade roll-out of meetings in their local countries to further disseminate the key messages more widely throughout Europe.

This series of meetings has been a catalyst for wider discussions bringing physicians from the psychiatric, diabetic and cardiovascular communities together to discuss how to treat patients with severe mental illness.

Case study details

Client: Pfizer
Agency: FD Santé
Campaign: Controversies in Psychiatry
Timescale: July 2007 to July 2008

18th November 2009


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