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Open Access Closing the gap: decentralising mental health care to primary care centres in one rural district of Rwanda

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Setting: Programmes that integrate mental health care into primary care settings could reduce the global burden of mental disorders by increasing treatment availability in resource-limited settings, including Rwanda.

Objective: We describe patient demographics, service use and retention of patients in care at health centres (HC) participating in an innovative primary care integration programme, compared to patients using existing district hospital-based specialised out-patient care.

Design: This was a retrospective cohort study using routinely collected data from six health centres and one district hospital from October 2014 to March 2015.

Results: Of 709 patients, 607 were cared for at HCs; HCs accounted for 88% of the total visits for mental disorders. Patients with psychosis used HC services more frequently, while patients with affective disorders were seen more frequently at the district hospital. Of the 68% of patients who returned to care within 90 days of their first visit, 76% had a third visit within a further 90 days. There were no significant differences in follow-up rates between clinical settings.

Conclusion: This study suggests that a programme of mentorship for primary care nurses can facilitate the decentralisation of out-patient mental health care from specialised district hospital mental health services to HCs in rural Rwanda.
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Keywords: mental disorders; mentorship; operational research; task-sharing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Partners In Health/Inshuti Mu Buzima, Kigali, Rwanda 2: Médecins Sans Frontières, Luxembourg Operational Research Unit (LuxOR), Brussels Operational Centre, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA 3: Médecins Sans Frontières, Luxembourg Operational Research Unit (LuxOR), Brussels Operational Centre, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, Division of Social and Behavioural Sciences, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa 4: Médecins Sans Frontières, Luxembourg Operational Research Unit (LuxOR), Brussels Operational Centre, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg 5: Ministry of Health, Kigali, Rwanda 6: Partners In Health/Inshuti Mu Buzima, Kigali, Rwanda, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA 7: Partners In Health/Inshuti Mu Buzima, Kigali, Rwanda, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Publication date: 2017-09-21

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  • Public Health Action (PHA), The Union's quarterly open access on-line journal, provides a platform for its mission 'Health solutions for the poor'. PHA addresses the need for show-casing operational research that addresses issues in health systems and services. It publishes high-quality scientific research that provides new knowledge to improve access, equity, quality and efficiency of health systems and services.

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