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Mental health policy in Kenya -an integrated approach to scaling up equitable care for poor populations

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Author(s): Kiima David | Jenkins Rachel

Journal: International Journal of Mental Health Systems
ISSN 1752-4458

Volume: 4;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 19;
Date: 2010;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Background Although most donor and development agency attention is focussed on communicable diseases in Kenya, the importance of non-communicable diseases including mental health and mental illness is increasingly apparent, both in their own right and because of their influence on health, education and social goals. Mental illness is common but the specialist service is extremely sparse and primary care is struggling to cope with major health demands. Non health sectors e.g. education, prisons, police, community development, gender and children, regional administration and local government have significant concerns about mental health, but general health programmes have been surprisingly slow to appreciate the significance of mental health for physical health targets. Despite a people centred post colonial health delivery system, poverty and global social changes have seriously undermined equity. This project sought to meet these challenges, aiming to introduce sustainable mental health policy and implementation across the country, within the context of extremely scarce resources. Methods A multi-faceted and comprehensive programme which combined situation appraisal to inform planning, sustained intersectoral policy dialogue at national and regional level; establishment of a health sector system for coordination, supervision and training of at each level (national, regional, district and primary care); development workshops; production of toolkits, development of guidelines and standards; encouragement of intersectoral liaison at national, regional, district and local levels; public education; and integration of mental health into health management systems. Results The programme has achieved detailed situation appraisal, epidemiological needs assessment, inclusion of mental health into the health sector reform plans, and into the National Package of Essential Health Interventions, annual operational plans, mental health policy guidelines to accompany the general health policy, tobacco legislation, adaptation of the WHO primary care guidelines for Kenya, primary care training, construction of a quality system of roles and responsibilities, availability of medicines at primary care level, some strengthening of intersectoral liaison with police, prisons and schools, and public education about mental health. Conclusions The project has demonstrated the importance of using a multi-faceted and comprehensive programme to promote sustainable system change, key elements of which include a focus on the use of rapid appropriate assessment and treatment at primary care level, strengthening the referral system, interministerial and intersectoral liaison, rehabilitation, social inclusion, promotion and advocacy to mobilize community engagement.

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