A learning disabilities specialist nurse has called for more people to join Wales' national project to improve health and care, HealthWise Wales. Spurred on by the medical needs of her family, 59-year-old Jayne Goddard from Pontypridd joined HealthWise Wales to be part of the national effort to improve health, care and NHS services. HealthWise Wales is the ground-breaking project to build a complete picture of the nation's health, collecting information from people of all ages and walks of life across Wales. By doing this, it aims to better understand how lifestyle, NHS care and our social situation influences our health.
Jayne said: "I joined HealthWise Wales because I hoped I'd be able to help, in a small way, towards research that could potentially improve not only my health and that of my family and friends, but also the health of the nation as a whole."
Jayne now answers simple questions online every six months. Her answers, along with those of 18,000 others to date, gives the Cardiff University-led team the data needed to piece together a picture of the nation's health and how it could be improved in the future.
Now working with those with learning disabilities and mental health problems, Jayne's passion for better mental health awareness and care has its roots in her son's borderline Asperger's Syndrome and her husband's experiences of clinical depression.
Jayne said: "Having a son with Asperger's Syndrome and a niece with learning difficulties made me want to focus on caring for patients who struggle with similar issues, which is why I decided to become a nurse. "My son wasn't initially diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome - he struggled with social anxiety but wasn't ever told the reason for it. He was around 13-years-old when I was doing my training, and it was only then, when I was working with lots of patients with Asperger's Syndrome that I made connections and realised that he had a mild form of the syndrome." She continued: "My experience with my husband's depression has also shaped my understanding of mental health and made me more aware of the importance of research into mental health. Awareness and understanding of mental health is definitely improving; it's much better than it was when I was younger, but there's still room for improvement. "I think it's important that people share their personal experiences of health issues. The more information that's out there, the more likely it'll be that other people will be able to identify with these experiences. Hopefully our healthcare will then improve as a result."
Those 16 or over who sign up to HealthWise Wales will be contacted every six months to complete several new questionnaires about their health, lifestyle and wellbeing. This includes a set of questions about 'how do you feel'. Questions about social situations and specific aspects of mental health are likely to be added in the future.
Other HealthWise Wales modules include questions on antenatal care, oral health and bowel cancer symptoms, as well as general health and wellbeing questions.
Researchers will use this information to help track changes in people's health, and study how to prevent the onset of ill-health, and treat and manage a range of health conditions. In addition, participants will also be contacted about new research studies that they partake in should they wish to do so.