PRIME launches in Ethiopia in partnership with Addis Ababa University and Federal Ministry of Health

9 Jul 2012 - 12:00

In most low and middle income countries, like Ethiopia, mental disorders constitute an under-recognized but major public health burden. Mental disorders affect all segments of society irrespective of age, sex, area of residence, ethnicity, religious background or economic status. They cause substantial suffering and cost to individuals, families and societies. It is not possible to meet the Millennium Development Goals without addressing mental health needs. First of all “there is no health without mental health” (WHO) and, second, mental disorders are strongly associated with poverty.

Currently Ethiopia is far from meeting the mental health needs of its population. Only 1 in 100 individuals with severe mental disorder receive adequate treatment. Fewer than 10 in 100 individuals with epilepsy receive appropriate treatment. Instead many continue to suffer mental torment, are chained at home or victims of abusive practices, get excluded from society and die at a young age.

Cheap and effective treatments are available for mental disorders but these are not currently accessible for the majority of the population. To overcome the lack of mental health professionals and services in Ethiopia, the Federal Ministry of Health of Ethiopia is spear-heading expansion of mental health care by making it part of routine care at the health centre and health post level (the primary care level). This is the focus of the forthcoming National Mental Health Strategy and WHO’s mental health Gap Action Programme. However, little is known about how to make integration of mental health into primary health care work in our setting.

This is where a new project, the PRogramme for Improving Mental Health CarE (PRIME), will help. PRIME is a six-year multi-country research initiative involving Ethiopia, India, Nepal, South Africa and Uganda, funded by the UK’s Department for International Development. The Department of Psychiatry, Addis Ababa University, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health leads the project in Ethiopia. PRIME will tell is the best way to integrate and scale up mental health care so that it is acceptable, feasible, sustainable and reaches all segments of the population in a fair way. PRIME Ethiopia will be working in Sodo district, with a plan to expand across the whole Gurage zone, and provide information that will help expansion of mental health care across Ethiopia. Expected outcomes of PRIME in Ethiopia include:

  • Improved mental health care, accessibility of services and outcomes of individuals affected by mental disorders
  • Sustainable increase in mental health research capacity in Ethiopia
  • Strong partnership and collaboration with other partnering organizations and countries to support further research, service development and capacity.

PRIME Ethiopia is working in collaboration with Addis Ababa University, the Federal Ministry of Health, the SNNPR Regional Health Bureau and Sodo district administration.  International collaborators include Kings College London, the World Health Organization and University of Cape Town. PRIME is funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).