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Current coverage of mental healthcare in low- and middle-income countries is very limited, not only in terms of access to services but also in terms of financial protection of individuals in need of care and treatment.
To identify the challenges, opportunities and strategies for more equitable and sustainable mental health financing in six sub-Saharan African and South Asian countries, namely Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda.
In the context of a mental health systems research project (Emerald), a multi-methods approach was implemented consisting of three steps: a quantitative and narrative assessment of each country's disease burden profile, health system and macro-fiscal situation; in-depth interviews with expert stakeholders; and a policy analysis of sustainable financing options.
Key challenges identified for sustainable mental health financing include the low level of funding accorded to mental health services, widespread inequalities in access and poverty, although opportunities exist in the form of new political interest in mental health and ongoing reforms to national insurance schemes. Inclusion of mental health within planned or nascent national health insurance schemes was identified as a key strategy for moving towards more equitable and sustainable mental health financing in all six countries.
Including mental health in ongoing national health insurance reforms represent the most important strategic opportunity in the six participating countries to secure enhanced service provision and financial protection for individuals and households affected by mental disorders and psychosocial disabilities.
Declaration of interest
D.C. is a staff member of the World Health Organization.
Successful scale-up of integrated primary mental healthcare requires routine monitoring of key programme performance indicators. A consensus set of mental health indicators has been proposed but evidence on their use in routine settings is lacking.
To assess the acceptability, feasibility, perceived costs and sustainability of implementing indicators relating to integrated mental health service coverage in six South Asian (India, Nepal) and sub-Saharan African countries (Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda).
A qualitative study using semi-structured key informant interviews (n = 128) was conducted. The ‘Performance of Routine Information Systems’ framework served as the basis for a coding framework covering three main categories related to the performance of new tools introduced to collect data on mental health indicators: (1) technical; (2) organisation; and (3) behavioural determinants.
Most mental health indicators were deemed relevant and potentially useful for improving care, and therefore acceptable to end users. Exceptions were indicators on functionality, cost and severity. The simplicity of the data-capturing formats contributed to the feasibility of using forms to generate data on mental health indicators. Health workers reported increasing confidence in their capacity to record the mental health data and minimal additional cost to initiate mental health reporting. However, overstretched primary care staff and the time-consuming reporting process affected perceived sustainability.
Use of the newly developed, contextually appropriate mental health indicators in health facilities providing primary care services was seen largely to be feasible in the six Emerald countries, mainly because of the simplicity of the forms and continued support in the design and implementation stage. However, approaches to implementation of new forms generating data on mental health indicators need to be customised to the specific health system context of different countries. Further work is needed to identify ways to utilise mental health data to monitor and improve the quality of mental health services.
There is a global drive to improve access to mental healthcare by scaling up integrated mental health into primary healthcare (PHC) systems in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
To investigate systems-level implications of efforts to scale-up integrated mental healthcare into PHC in districts in six LMICs.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 121 managers and service providers. Transcribed interviews were analysed using framework analysis guided by the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research and World Health Organization basic building blocks.
Ensuring that interventions are synergistic with existing health system features and strengthening of the healthcare system building blocks to support integrated chronic care and task-sharing were identified as aiding integration efforts. The latter includes (a) strengthening governance to include technical support for integration efforts as well as multisectoral collaborations; (b) ring-fencing mental health budgets at district level; (c) a critical mass of mental health specialists to support task-sharing; (d) including key mental health indicators in the health information system; (e) psychotropic medication included on free essential drug lists and (f) enabling collaborative and community- oriented PHC-service delivery platforms and continuous quality improvement to aid service delivery challenges in implementation.
Scaling up integrated mental healthcare in PHC in LMICs is more complex than training general healthcare providers. Leveraging existing health system processes that are synergistic with chronic care services and strengthening healthcare system building blocks to provide a more enabling context for integration are important.
In most low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), routine mental health information is unavailable or unreliable, making monitoring of mental healthcare coverage difficult. This study aims to evaluate a new set of mental health indicators introduced in primary healthcare settings in five LMIC.
A survey was conducted among primary healthcare workers (n = 272) to assess the acceptability and feasibility of eight new indicators monitoring mental healthcare needs, utilisation, quality and payments. Also, primary health facility case records (n = 583) were reviewed by trained research assistants to assess the level of completion (yes/no) for each of the indicators and subsequently the level of correctness of completion (correct/incorrect – with incorrect defined as illogical, missing or illegible information) of the indicators used by health workers. Assessments were conducted within 1 month of the introduction of the indicators, as well as 6–9 months afterwards.
Across both time points and across all indicators, 78% of the measurements of indicators were complete. Among the best performing indicators (diagnosis, severity and treatment), this was significantly higher. With regards to correctness, 87% of all completed indicators were correctly completed. There was a trend towards improvement over time. Health workers' perceptions on feasibility and utility, across sites and over time, indicated a positive attitude in 81% of all measurements.
This study demonstrates high levels of performance and perceived utility for a set of indicators that could ultimately be used to monitor coverage of mental healthcare in primary healthcare settings in LMIC. We recommend that these indicators are incorporated into existing health information systems and adopted within the World Health Organization Mental Health Gap Action Programme implementation strategy.
Little is known about the household economic costs associated with mental, neurological and substance use (MNS) disorders in low- and middle-income countries.
To assess the association between MNS disorders and household education, consumption, production, assets and financial coping strategies in Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda.
We conducted an exploratory cross-sectional household survey in one district in each country, comparing the economic circumstances of households with an MNS disorder (alcohol-use disorder, depression, epilepsy or psychosis) (n = 2339) and control households (n = 1982).
Despite some heterogeneity between MNS disorder groups and countries, households with a member with an MNS disorder had generally lower levels of adult education; lower housing standards, total household income, effective income and non-health consumption; less asset-based wealth; higher healthcare expenditure; and greater use of deleterious financial coping strategies.
Households living with a member who has an MNS disorder constitute an economically vulnerable group who are susceptible to chronic poverty and intergenerational poverty transmission.
Declaration of interest
D.C. is a staff member of the World Health Organization. The authors alone are responsible for the views expressed in this publication and they do not necessarily represent the decisions, policy or views of the World Health Organization.
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