Closing the mental health treatment gap in South Africa: a review of costs and cost-effectiveness

Jack H, Wagner RG, Petersen I, Thom R, Newton CR, Stein A, Kahn K, Tollman S, Hofman KJ
Glob Health Action. 2014;7

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BACKGROUND: Nearly one in three South Africans will suffer from a mental disorder in his or her lifetime, a higher prevalence than many low- and middle-income countries. Understanding the economic costs and consequences of prevention and packages of care is essential, particularly as South Africa considers scaling-up mental health services and works towards universal health coverage. Economic evaluations can inform how priorities are set in system or spending changes. OBJECTIVE: To identify and review research from South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa on the direct and indirect costs of mental, neurological, and substance use (MNS) disorders and the cost-effectiveness of treatment interventions. DESIGN: Narrative overview methodology. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: Reviewed studies indicate that integrating mental health care into existing health systems may be the most effective and cost-efficient approach to increase access to mental health services in South Africa. Integration would also direct treatment, prevention, and screening to people with HIV and other chronic health conditions who are at high risk for mental disorders. We identify four major knowledge gaps: 1) accurate and thorough assessment of the health burdens of MNS disorders, 2) design and assessment of interventions that integrate mental health screening and treatment into existing health systems, 3) information on the use and costs of traditional medicines, and 4) cost-effectiveness evaluation of a range of specific interventions or packages of interventions that are tailored to the national context.