[#WHD2017 Blog Series] Inspiring Innovations: Frugal Innovations (MAC-FI)

This blog is part of our series celebrating World Health Day, this year themed “Depression: Let's Talk.” Hear what our community of innovators has to say about the ideas behind their Inspiring Innovations, and how they address depression across the globe.

Here, the team behind the Innovation: MAC-FI discusses its approach to low-cost, widely available, and evidence-based psychosocial interventions in Vietnam.

Tell us about your country’s context and the circumstances that inspired your innovation.

Mental health specialist services are very limited in Vietnam and mental health disorders are usually addressed in highly specialized care facilities. Interventions such as counselling and psychosocial care are almost non-existent, and while primary healthcare services are available to the general population, they often do not include services for common mental disorders such as depression.

Recognizing the need for a stronger mental health system of care, the government of Vietnam has been working to develop and expand community based mental health care services and interventions. Our innovation, Mental Health in Adults and Children: Frugal Innovations (MAC-FI), comprises of two interventions, one of which aims to contribute to improvements in the identification and treatment of depression for adults in primary care in Vietnam. This innovation trains commune-level health and social workers to treat adults suffering from depression utilizing a supported self-management (SSM) approach where patients receive coaching from a care provider. The scale-up of our innovation commenced in 2016.

What aspect of your project are you most excited about? How is the project innovative or unique?

Our partnership with the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) in Vietnam is a really exciting aspect of our project. To a large degree, it has been with their support and matched investment that we have been able to expand the adult depression intervention from two provinces, to an additional eight provinces and 32 Commune Health Stations. MOLISA continues to be an important partner in our scale-up efforts and we are looking forward to completing our randomized control trial (RCT) so that our innovation can contribute to evidence relating to depression treatment and community mental healthcare strengthening in Vietnam.  

Have you noticed an impact ‘on the ground’? What is the best feedback you have received (from service users, team members, or otherwise)?

The best feedback to date has been the continued support and investment amongst health leaders and our community partners in Vietnam for our innovation. Their support in the planning, implementation and integration with other relevant efforts in Vietnam gives our innovation the greatest chance of sustainability longer term and in the short term, has been crucial as we are still in the early stages of implementation.      

What’s next?

We are one year into a 3-year transition-to-scale phase (funded by Grand Challenges Canada with matched funding from MOLISA). As mentioned, that includes a RCT of the SSM intervention for adults with depression in eight Vietnamese provinces. We are hopeful that if the results of the RCT are positive, the SSM model will continue to be scaled up and will be accessible to adults dealing with depression across Vietnam.

What is the one message about depression you want people to take away from your innovation?

Despite the high prevalence of depression globally, services for people with depression are seriously lacking. We know that approaches such as task-sharing can help to fill this gap and to enhance access to services for people with depression in countries like Vietnam. We are hopeful that the results of the MAC-FI study will contribute to the evidence showing that services for depression don’t have to be expensive or complex to be effective, and that low cost, culturally appropriate services may be made available at the community level to individuals struggling with depression.

To read more about the Innovation, visit the case study page.

To see the other blogs in this series, visit our [#WHD2017 Blog Series].

Task sharing
Detection and diagnosis
Treatment, care and rehabilitation
Depression/anxiety/stress-related disorders
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