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Public mental health and wellbeing interventions delivered by allied health professionals (AHPs): mapping the evidence and identification of gaps. A systematic review

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sarah WighamORCiD, Professor Eileen KanerORCiD, Jane Bourne, Dr Simon Hackett



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2023, Sarah Wigham, Eileen Kaner, Jane Bourne, Kanar Ahmed and Simon Hackett. Purpose: Mental well-being is associated with positive outcomes throughout the life course. This study aims to examine interventions delivered by allied health professionals (AHPs) to alleviate community stressors adversely impacting public mental health and well-being. Design/methodology/approach: Review inclusion criteria comprised experimental and qualitative process evaluations of public mental health interventions delivered by AHPs. Electronic searches in Cinahl, Embase, Medline, PsycINFO and the Cochrane Library, were combined with grey literature searches of National Institute for Health and Care Excellence public health guidance. A narrative synthesis and the Effective Public Health Practice Project appraisal tool were used to evaluate the evidence. Findings: A total of 45-articles were included in the review describing AHP-delivered interventions addressing social disadvantage, trauma, bullying, loneliness, work-related stress, transitional stress, intersectionality, pain and bereavement. No articles were identified evaluating interventions delivered by operating department practitioners or orthoptists. A conceptual map was developed summarising the stressors, and a typology of public mental health interventions defined including: place-based interventions, discrete/one-off interventions, multi-component lifestyle and social connector interventions and interventions targeting groups at risk of mental health conditions. Research limitations/implications: Many mental health conditions begin in childhood, and a strength of the review is the life course perspective. A further strength is compiling a compendium of public mental health outcome measures used by AHPs to inform future research. The authors excluded many articles focussed on clinical interventions/populations, which did not meet review inclusion criteria. While playing a key role in delivering public mental health interventions, clinical psychologists are not defined as AHPs and were excluded from the review, and this may be construed a limitation. Given heterogeneity of study designs and interventions evaluated numerical analyses of pooled findings was not appropriate. Practical implications: The review highlights the breadth of community stressors on which AHPs can intervene and contribute in public mental health contexts, stressors which correspond to those identified in UK Government guidance as currently important and relevant to address. The findings can inform developing community public mental health pathways that align with the UK National Health Service (NHS) Long Term Plan, on prevention and early intervention to protect community mental health and well-being. Further can inform the NHS strategic direction for AHPs including informing ways of increasing utilisation of core AHP skills to optimise contributions in public mental health agendas. Social implications: It is surprising there were not more AHP delivered evaluations of interventions for other stressors important to address in public mental health settings, for example gambling, domestic violence or that used digital technology, and these are areas for future research. Future research should identify the most active/effective dimensions of multi-component interventions which could be informed by frameworks to guide complex intervention development. The relative paucity of research identified, highlights the predominant focus of research to date on interventions for clinical mental health conditions and populations. The lack of preventative approaches is evident, and an important area for future research to align with UK health and social care priorities. Originality/value: The review highlights AHP-delivered interventions impacting diverse community stressors across the life course. The findings can inform developing public mental health pathways aligned with government health service priorities to protect mental health and well-being, prioritise prevention and early intervention and increase utilisation of AHP skills across public mental health settings.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wigham S, Kaner E, Bourne J, Ahmed K, Hackett S

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Public Mental Health

Year: 2023

Volume: 22

Issue: 4

Pages: 216-229

Online publication date: 20/09/2023

Acceptance date: 18/07/2023

ISSN (print): 1746-5729

ISSN (electronic): 2042-8731

Publisher: Emerald Publishing


DOI: 10.1108/JPMH-04-2023-0033