Mental health in the foreground of the World Innovation Summit for Health

The World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), a global initiative of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, is a community of Ministers of Health, policymakers, experts and academics dedicated to discussing and overcoming through innovation the major global health problems. It is a community dedicated to capturing and disseminating the best evidence-based ideas and practices. The second meeting of the Summit took place in Doha on February 17-18, 2015. Mental health was prominent on the agenda as it was in November 2013 at the first meeting. 

Leading up to each meeting of the Summit, several ‘Forums’ were established to prepare reports for discussion. Each focused on a key topic in healthcare, and aimed to appeal particularly to policy makers and healthcare innovators. One of the eight Forums at the first meeting addressed mental health. Transforming Lives, Enhancing Communities: Innovations in Mental Health' was led by Vikram Patel and Shekhar Saxena, with Mary De Silva  and Chiara Samele. The Mental Health Innovation Network, supported by Grand Challenges Canada is a direct result of the Forum report and discussion.

At the second meeting of the Summit this month, two of the eight reports were directly related to mental health as well as one of three policy briefings. Reports were released and discussed on ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing in Children’ led by Richard Layard, Baron Layard FBE, Program Director of the Centre for Economic Performance at LSE, and ‘Dementia’ led by Ellis Rubinstein, President and CEO, The New York Academy of Sciences. These reports are available on the WISH website for downloading.

Shekhar Saxena convened a novel policy briefing on mental health that attracted wide interest and canvassed the barriers and facilitators to policy change and innovation. He noted WHO’s six key policy actions for mental health, beginning with empowering people with mental health problems and their families and building a diverse mental health workforce, and the WHO Mental Health Action Plan. In answer to the rhetorical question ‘What do we need now?’ he listed:

  1. Inclusion in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals or at least specific mention in the indicators and targets
  2. Higher public health priority for mental health
  3. More resources including human resources
  4. Innovative methods of delivering care
  5. More effective use of technology
  6. Research and evaluation

His next question for debate was ‘How to make this happen?’  The discussion concentrated on the first two of WHO’s key policy actions as noted above.

A report on ‘Maternal and Newborn Health’ was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in partnership with WISH and led by Ana Langer, Maternal Health Task Force, Women and Health Initiative, Harvard School of Public Health and Joy Riggs-Perla, Saving Newborn Lives, Save the Children. The report concerns primarily the global tragedy of preventable deaths of mothers and newborns. The special relevance of mental health to the topic was raised in discussion and is evidenced by a Lancet series published last month on perinatal mental health.

The plenary discussions at the Summit had great interest for the mental health community. The nature of innovation and the quality improvement mind-set have much in common according to Donald Berwick. In an inspiring address he exhorted each of us to retain our innate joy in achievement and reminded us to advocate for health (and other) systems that encourage and require innovation and create health. He contrasted this with a fearful and cautious reliance on inspection to remove ‘bad apples’. The Triple Aim of better health, better care and lower costs of care and the metrics of ‘truth not blame’ are the hallmarks of quality improvement that he has done so much to promote over a long period. Interdependent human achievement is as relevant to improving mental health as any aspect of health. Leadership is critical in promoting this approach. 

Deva Shetti addressed the global shortage of 12.9 million health workers. He described the development of a global university for medical, nursing and paramedical education. The virtual university for Asia, Africa and Latin America will have 80% global and 20% local curriculum. Its graduates will have a trans-border license to practice. Overall, mental health was definitely a topic of huge focus at WISH 2015.

All the reports, recorded presentations and discussions can be accessed on the WISH website.

Maternal and neonatal health
Children and adolescents
Older adults
Policy and legislation
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