Scientists collaborate to strengthen mental health systems in low-income countries
An international consortium of scientists has launched the EMERALD global mental health project to improve mental health systems in low- and middle-income countries (LAMICs). The project is funded with EUR 5.8 million by the European Union, under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7 2007/2013).
EMERALD stands for 'emerging mental health systems in low- and middle-income countries'. The project is being led by the Centre for Global Mental Health at King's College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and brings together collaborators from Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda. The long-term goal is to improve mental health outcomes by enhancing health systems and establishing adequate and sustainable resourcing, integrated provision of physical and mental health, and improved coverage of care.
The consortium aims to strengthen the health system and take the steps necessary for its realisation in all six countries.
At the meeting to launch the EMERALD project, Professor Graham Thornicroft, Head of the Health Service and Population Research (HSPR) Department at King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry and coordinator of the EMERALD consortium said, 'This award is an invaluable opportunity to develop a clearer understanding of how to strengthen mental health systems in low income countries to provide more and better care. We have a long way to go. In such countries as few as 2 % of people with mental illness receive any treatment or care. EMERALD will accelerate progress to close this mental health gap.'
The team of scientists have formed a collaboration to tackle what they see as challenging times for the health system the world over. These include greater demands and challenges, driven in part by technological advances and consumer expectations, but also by ageing populations, emerging epidemics and economic constraints. But for the health system in LAMICs, they have additional problems as they are becoming increasingly strained due to the lower availability of resources and the higher overall burden of disease in these populations (compared to high-income countries).
Many LAMICs are also facing high levels of mortality due to communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions, which are being replaced or matched by increasing rates of chronic non-communicable disease (NCDs), including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and mental disorders.
Professor Atalay Alem from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia comments: 'In Ethiopia, the government is committed to scaling up mental health care to the population, having just launched its first National Mental Health Strategy. We're in the process of studying the best way to implement this strategy on the ground, through task sharing mental health care with primary care workers. What EMERALD will bring to these efforts is a critically important focus on the higher level systems and structures needed to support this model of mental health care delivery in a sustainable and equitable way.'
Besides King's College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, other partners of the EMERALD consortium are the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (Spain), World Health Organization, Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia), Public Health Foundation of India, Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO, Nepal), University of Ibadan (Nigeria), University of Cape Town (South Africa), University of KwaZulu Natal (South Africa), Butabika National Mental Hospital (Uganda) and HealthNet TPO (the Netherlands). The research of the international consortium will be managed and supported in administrative issues by the German small enterprise GABO:mi, Munich.
The Centre for Global Mental Health is a joint venture between King's College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and its joint directors are Professor Martin Prince (King's College London) and Professor Vikram Patel (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine).
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Subject Index: Coordination, Cooperation; Healthcare delivery/services