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There is limited evidence of the safety and impact of task-shared care for people with severe mental illnesses (SMI; psychotic disorders and bipolar disorder) in low-income countries. The aim of this study was to evaluate the safety and impact of a district-level plan for task-shared mental health care on 6 and 12-month clinical and social outcomes of people with SMI in rural southern Ethiopia.
In the Programme for Improving Mental health carE, we conducted an intervention cohort study. Trained primary healthcare (PHC) workers assessed community referrals, diagnosed SMI and initiated treatment, with independent research diagnostic assessments by psychiatric nurses. Primary outcomes were symptom severity and disability. Secondary outcomes included discrimination and restraint.
Almost all (94.5%) PHC worker diagnoses of SMI were verified by psychiatric nurses. All prescribing was within recommended dose limits. A total of 245 (81.7%) people with SMI were re-assessed at 12 months. Minimally adequate treatment was received by 29.8%. All clinical and social outcomes improved significantly. The impact on disability (standardised mean difference 0.50; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.35–0.65) was greater than impact on symptom severity (standardised mean difference 0.28; 95% CI 0.13–0.44). Being restrained in the previous 12 months reduced from 25.3 to 10.6%, and discrimination scores reduced significantly.
An integrated district level mental health care plan employing task-sharing safely addressed the large treatment gap for people with SMI in a rural, low-income country setting. Randomised controlled trials of differing models of task-shared care for people with SMI are warranted.
In low-income African countries, ensuring food security for all segments of the population is a high priority. Mental illness is associated consistently with poverty, but there is little evidence regarding the association with food insecurity. The aim of this study was to compare the levels of food insecurity in people with severe mental disorders (SMD) with the general population in a rural African setting with a high burden of food insecurity.
Households of 292 community-ascertained people with a specialist-confirmed diagnosis of SMD (including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) were compared with 284 households without a person with SMD in a rural district in south Ethiopia. At the time of the study, no mental health services were available within the district. Food insecurity was measured using a validated version of the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale. Disability was measured using the World Health Organisation Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0.
Severe household food insecurity was reported by 32.5% of people with SMD and 15.9% of respondents from comparison households: adjusted odds ratio 2.82 (95% confidence interval 1.62 to 4.91). Higher annual income was associated independently with lower odds of severe food insecurity. When total disability scores were added into the model, the association between SMD and food insecurity became non-significant, indicating a possible mediating role of disability.
Efforts to alleviate food insecurity need to target people with SMD as a vulnerable group. Addressing the disabling effects of SMD would also be expected to reduce food insecurity. Access to mental health care integrated into primary care is being expanded in this district as part of the Programme for Improving Mental health carE (PRIME). The impact of treatment on disability and food insecurity will be evaluated.
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