The Ministry of Health - Mental Health & Addiction Knowledge Exchange Network

"A knowledge exchange network for shared learning about how mental health and addiction services can better meet people’s needs....” 

In late April, 2020, the Ministry of Health (MoH, the ministry) released a background paper describing the potential to establish a Knowledge Exchange Network (KEN, the network) for Mental Health and Addiction (MHA). They described it as “an opportunity to share knowledge about what works well, for whom and where to accelerate learning across the country”.  The network was also described as needing a “particular focus on equity for Māori” and to “better meet people’s needs within the current COVID-19 context”. 


The ministry agreed to initially support the network with technology and people, then consulted with the field to establish it. They agreed that the network would focus on one or two priority areas (COVID-19 continuity of MHA services was one) and asked the field to provide examples of others. They also asked for suggestions of who could contribute to the network, how the network should be structured to ensure the focus on equity and who needs to own and make decisions about the network. 

The network is still very much in its infancy and is currently hosted, on behalf of the ministry, by Te Pou (the workforce centre for the mental health, addiction and disability sectors in New Zealand).  

  • Knowledge Leaders have been advertised for and recruitment is well under way.  
  • The technical platform from which the network will operate is under construction  
  • It is envisaged that it will be ready to launch by early October.  

Te Pou describe the network as being far more about the people that engage with it than the tool itself. It is about relationships, sharing of knowledge and mutual support, through webinars, zoom forums access to on-line resources and other virtual-based activity. The existence of the network in a virtual space ensures a COVID-proof environment for ongoing learning, sharing and delivery. 

I believe that the network can potentially be a very positive initiative. I think of it like a 24-7, New Zealand-based but global, COVID-proof online university, library and knowledge repository. The space will come with discussion rooms, access to experts and a wealth of evidence, opinion and room to test theory and experiences. 

My hope is that we manage to keep the network grounded to whānau and service user experience, input and oversight. I hear the commitment to equity and I hope that that makes it to the fore – so often equity is lost in development in these things. 

Of course I shall continue to provide updates as this exciting opportunity develops and, as always, I am really happy to discuss any matters arising for anyone reading this article. 


Please click here to return to the Winter Newsletter Homepage