SMART Mental Health Project: process evaluation to understand the barriers and facilitators for implementation of multifaceted intervention in rural India

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Abstract

Background: Globally, mental health problems are a growing public health concern. Resources and services for mental disorders are disproportionately low compared to disease burden. In order to bridge treatment gaps, The Systematic Medical Appraisal, Referral and Treatment (SMART) Mental Health Project was implemented across 12 villages in West Godavari district of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. This paper reports findings from a process evaluation of feasibility and acceptability of the intervention that focused on a mental health services delivery model to screen, diagnose and manage common mental disorders (CMDs). Methods: A mixed methods evaluation was undertaken using quantitative service usage analytics, and qualitative data from in-depth interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with stakeholders including primary care physicians, community health workers, field staff and community members. Barriers to and facilitators of intervention implementation were identified. Andersen’s Behavioral Model for Health Services Use was the conceptual framework used to guide the process evaluation and interpretation of data. Results: In all, 41 Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and 6 primary health centre (PHC) doctors were trained in mental health symptoms and its management. ASHAs followed up 98.7% of screen positive cases, and 81.2% of these were clinically diagnosed and treated by the PHC doctors. The key facilitators of implementation were adequate training and supervision of field staff, ASHAs and doctors, use of electronic decision support, incorporation of a door-to-door campaign and use of culturally tailored dramas/videos to raise awareness about CMDs, and organising health camps at the village level facilitating delivery of intervention activities. Barriers to implementation included travel distance to receive care, limited knowledge about mental health, high level of stigma related to mental health issues, and poor mobile network signals and connectivity in the villages. Lack of familiarity with and access to mobile phones, especially among women, to accessing health related messages as part of the intervention. Conclusions: The evaluation not only provides a context to the interventionsdelivered, but also allowed an understanding of possible factors that need tobe addressed to make the programme scalable and of benefit to policy makers.

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Tewari, A., Kallakuri, S., Devarapalli, S., Peiris, D., Patel, A., & Maulik, P. K. (2021). SMART Mental Health Project: process evaluation to understand the barriers and facilitators for implementation of multifaceted intervention in rural India. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 15(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13033-021-00438-2

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