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Research summaries and systematic reviews
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This article and accompanying Emerald policy brief identify “best practice” and “good practice” interventions at the population- and community- levels along the continuum of care in low- and middle-income countries. 




Inge Petersen, Sara Evans-Lacko, Maya Semrau, Margaret M. Barry, Dan Chisholm, Petra Gronholm, Catherine O. Egbe, Graham Thornicroft

International Journal of Mental Health Systems 2016 10:30 DOI: 10.1186/s13033-016-0060-z





In addition to services within the health system, interventions at the population and community levels are also important for the promotion of mental health, primary prevention of mental, neurological and substance use (MNS) disorders, identification and case detection of MNS disorders; and to a lesser degree treatment, care and rehabilitation. This study aims to identify “best practice” and “good practice” interventions that can feasibly be delivered at these population- and community-levels in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), to aid the identification of resource efficiencies and allocation in LMICs.


A narrative review was conducted given the wide range of relevant interventions. Expert consensus was used to identify “best practice” at the population-level on the basis of existing quasi-experimental natural experiments and cost effectiveness, with small scale emerging and promising evidence comprising “good practice”. At the community-level, using expert consensus, the ACE (Assessing Cost-Effectiveness in Prevention Project) grading system was used to differentiate “best practice” interventions with sufficient evidence from “good practice” interventions with limited but promising evidence.


At the population-level, laws and regulations to control alcohol demand and restrict access to lethal means of suicide were considered “best practice”. Child protection laws, improved control of neurocysticercosis and mass awareness campaigns were identified as “good practice”. At the community level, socio-emotional learning programmes in schools and parenting programmes during infancy were identified as “best practice”. The following were all identified as “good practice”: Integrating mental health promotion strategies into workplace occupational health and safety policies; mental health information and awareness programmes as well as detection of MNS disorders in schools; early child enrichment/preschool educational programs and parenting programs for children aged 2–14 years; gender equity and/or economic empowerment programs for vulnerable groups; training of gatekeepers to identify people with MNS disorders in the community; and training non-specialist community members at a neighbourhood level to assist with community-based support and rehabilitation of people with mental disorders.


Interventions provided at the population- and community-levels have an important role to play in promoting mental health, preventing the onset, and protecting those with MNS disorders. The importance of inter-sectoral engagement and the need for further research on interventions at these levels in LMICs is highlighted.




The review was informed by the published chapter on population- and community- interventions for the mental health volume of Disease Control Priorities (third edition)1.

  1. Petersen I, Evans-Lacko S, Semrau M, Barry MM, Chisholm D, Gronholm P, et al. Population and community level interventions. In: Patel V, Chisholm D, Dua T, Laxminarayan R, Medina-Mora ME, editors. Disease control priorities, vol. 4. 3rd ed. Mental, neurological and substance use disorders. Washington, DC: World Bank; 2015. p. 183–200.


Policy and legislation
Prevention and promotion
Detection and diagnosis
Training, education and capacity building
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