Equitable access to integrated primary mental healthcare for people with severe mental disorders in Ethiopia: a formative study

Maji Hailemariam, Abebaw Fekadu, Medhin Selamu, Girmay Medhin, Martin Prince, Charlotte Hanlon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: The provision of mental healthcare through integration into primary care is expected to improve access to care, but not all population groups may benefit equally. The aim of this study was to inform delivery of a new primary care-based mental health service in rural Ethiopia by identifying potential barriers to equitable access to mental healthcare and strategies to overcome them.

METHODS: A qualitative study was conducted as formative work for the PRogramme for Improving Mental healthcarE (PRIME), a project supporting delivery of mental healthcare integrated into primary care in a rural district in south central Ethiopia. In-depth interviews (n = 21) were carried out with stakeholders selected purposively from mental health service users, caregivers, community leaders and healthcare administrators. A focus group discussion (n = 12) was conducted with community health extension workers. Framework analysis was employed using an adapted version of the access framework developed for use in contexts of livelihood insecurity, which considers (1) availability, (2) accessibility and affordability. and (3) acceptability and adequacy dimensions of access.

RESULTS: Primary care-based mental healthcare was considered as a positive development, and would increase availability, accessibility and affordability of treatments. Low levels of community awareness, and general preference for traditional and religious healing were raised as potential challenges to the acceptability of integrated mental healthcare. Participants believed integrated mental healthcare would be comprehensive and of satisfactory quality. However, expectations about the effectiveness of treatment for mental disorders were generally low. Threats to equitable access to mental healthcare were identified for perinatal women, persons with physical disability, those living in extreme poverty and people with severe and persistent mental disability.

CONCLUSION: Establishing an affordable service within reach, raising awareness and financial support to families from low socioeconomic backgrounds were suggested to improve equitable access to mental healthcare by vulnerable groups including perinatal women and people with disabilities. Innovative approaches, such as telephone consultations with psychiatric nurses based in nearby towns and home outreach need to be developed and evaluated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121
JournalInternational journal for equity in health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2016


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