Little is known about the interventions required to build the capacity of mental health policy-makers and planners in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). We conducted a systematic review with the primary aim of identifying and synthesizing the evidence base for building the capacity of policy-makers and planners to strengthen mental health systems in LMICs.
We searched MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, Web of Knowledge, Web of Science, Scopus, CINAHL, LILACS, ScieELO, Google Scholar and Cochrane databases for studies reporting evidence, experience or evaluation of capacity-building of policy-makers, service planners or managers in mental health system strengthening in LMICs. Reports in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French or German were included. Additional papers were identified by hand-searching references and contacting experts and key informants. Database searches yielded 2922 abstracts and 28 additional papers were identified. Following screening, 409 full papers were reviewed, of which 14 fulfilled inclusion criteria for the review. Data were extracted from all included papers and synthesized into a narrative review.
Only a small number of mental health system-related capacity-building interventions for policy-makers and planners in LMICs were described. Most models of capacity-building combined brief training with longer term mentorship, dialogue and/or the establishment of networks of support. However, rigorous research and evaluation methods were largely absent, with studies being of low quality, limiting the potential to separate mental health system strengthening outcomes from the effects of associated contextual factors.
This review demonstrates the need for partnership approaches to building the capacity of mental health policy-makers and planners in LMICs, assessed rigorously against pre-specified conceptual frameworks and hypotheses, utilising longitudinal evaluation and mixed quantitative and qualitative approaches.