Integrating mental health into primary health care – Uganda's experience
Most developing countries and indeed many African countries have been undertaking reforms of the mental health policies and strategies to improve access and equity for the community to mental health and psychiatric services. This has been in conformity with a health policy philosophy which emphasize decentralization of services to the lower administrative units such as districts, community care as well as integrated delivery of health services within the lower health units. Uganda, one of the developing countries in sub- Saharan Africa, has been implementing its Health Sector Strategic Plan in which mental health has been identified as a major priority. The guidelines from World Health Organisation (WHO), the Alma Ata Declaration and the subsequent WHO recommendations have provided the guiding philosophy for the implementation of this process. However despite embracing the philosophy and having developed sound policies and implementation programs, practical realities are being experienced on the ground. The need for research and evidence-based approach is urgent to evaluate the success of the programmes, which have been developed by many member countries but whose implementation is still a very slow process. The paper reviews some of the international recommendations towards availing mental health to the majority of the population and the steps undertaken in implementing the integration approach with a case study for Uganda, points out the challenges and also proposes a way forward.
Keywords: Policies, Plans, Integration, Primary Health Care, Resources, Uganda.
> South African Psychiatry Review Vol. 10 (1) 2007: pp 17-19