Exploring the Feasibility of Integrating Mental Health into a Family Planning Program in low-resource settings
Keywords:Mental health integration, family planning, women, health workers, socioecological model, co-production, community based methodology
Introduction: Mental health challenges remain a pressing issue, underscored by the glaring gap between the elevated demand and the scarce resources. Research has highlighted the effectiveness of integrating mental health services with primary care services, particularly in low-resource settings.
Purpose: The objective of this research was to evaluate the perceived implications and feasibility of integrating basic mental health services into an existing community-based family planning initiative in Pakistan. By adopting a community-driven and co-produced methodology, our study not only ensured a deeper resonance with local needs but also paved the way for a sustainable and transformative uptake of mental health services in low-resource settings. This co-produced strategy, anchored in mutual collaboration and shared expertise with the community, promises a more holistic, enduring, and adaptive integration of essential health services within community frameworks.
Methodology: This study utilized a qualitative research approach to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the program's feasibility and potential for expansion. Interview tools and guides, tailored to the regional language, were developed by the Research Associate to gather insights from the lady health workers involved in delivering the intervention, as well as from the clients. Overall, our team conducted 24 interviews, of which 9 were with the lady health workers and 15 with clients. The interviews were facilitated by the Research Associate and a Psychologist.
Results: Utilizing the socio-ecological model, we thematically analyzed factors at individual, interpersonal, and community levels that support or hinder the integration of mental health services with existing community-based programmes. We also examined the intervention's impact on its users and the healthcare providers.
Our analysis underscores the significant potential of integrating mental health services into existing community-based health programmes, such as family planning, in low-resource settings. Predominant themes highlighted women's willingness to use these services, influenced by strong relationships and trust in the lady health workers, ease of access to services, and community support. Identified barriers to integration included prevailing poverty, a preference for direct financial incentives in addition to counseling, confidentiality concerns in tight-knit communities, and the lingering stigma surrounding mental health.
Conclusion: Our findings highlight the value of community collaboration in healthcare, particularly in low-resource settings. The co-production approach blends professional guidance with local insights, fostering community ownership and enhancing program sustainability. As the first to merge mental health with family planning in Pakistan, our research suggests that future health initiatives can greatly benefit from community-driven methods, leading to more sustainable and transformative health outcomes.
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