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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.
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.
The PRogramme for Improving Mental health care (PRIME) designed, implemented and evaluated a comprehensive mental healthcare plan (MHCP) for Sehore district, Madhya Pradesh, India.
To provide quantitative measures of outputs related to implementation processes, describe the role of contextual factors that facilitated and impeded implementation processes, and discuss what has been learned from the MHCP implementation.
A convergent parallel mixed-methods design was used. The quantitative strand consisted of process data on mental health indicators whereas the qualitative strand consisted of in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with key stakeholders involved in PRIME implementation.
The implementation of the MHCP in Sehore district in Madhya Pradesh, India, demonstrated that it is feasible to establish structures (for example Mann-Kaksha) and operationalise processes to integrate mental health services in a ‘real-world’ low-resource primary care setting. The key lessons can be summarised as: (a) clear ‘process maps’ of clinical interventions and implementation steps are helpful in monitoring/tracking the progress; (b) implementation support from an external team, in addition to training of service providers, is essential to provide clinical supervision and address the implementation barriers; (c) the enabling packages of the MHCP play a crucial role in strengthening the health system and improving the context/settings for implementation; and (d) engagement with key community stakeholders and incentives for community health workers are necessary to deliver services at the community-platform level.
The PRIME implementation model could be used to scale-up mental health services across India and similar low-resource settings.
Declaration of interest
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