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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.
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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