Mental, Neurological, and Substance Use Disorders in Sub-Saharan Africa: Reducing the Treatment Gap, Increasing Quality of Care - Workshop Summary


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Mental, neurological, and substance use (MNS) disorders disrupt the lives of individuals and families across the world. The impact of these disorders—which range from epilepsy to depression to alcohol abuse—is especially significant in sub-Saharan Africa, where most of the world’s poorest countries are found. Millions of Africans in 47 countries suffer from some type of MNS disorder, and most cannot obtain treatment. Few psychiatrists or other mental health professionals work in sub-Saharan Africa, and those that do usually have private practices in urban centers. Health centers in rural areas, where the majority of the population lives, are few and far between, and drugs tend to be scarce and expensive. As such, many people with MNS disorders go undiagnosed and untreated; they and their families must bear the burden of their disease alone.

In August 2009, the Uganda National Academy of Sciences’ Forum on Health and Nutrition and the IOM’s Forum on Neuroscience and Neurological Disorders hosted a workshop in Kampla, Uganda, to discuss the state of care for MNS disorders in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 150 researchers, providers, patient advocates, and policy specialists attended. Speakers explored strategies to improve the quality and consistency of care, taking into account countries’ limited resources, infrastructure, and other realities. This document summarizes the workshop.

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