Access to healthcare in developing countries, specifically in rural areas, is a challenge for many government health services. In fact, access to any type of government service in rural areas is difficult for both the end-user and for government service workers. Lack of systems, lack of centralized information and quite often, community resistance, are the biggest challenges to providing any type of government services to populations living outside of urban centers.
Increasing Health Services in Rural Areas
In traditional rural areas, healthcare services in general face some unique challenges. It’s not only a matter of identifying and reaching people in need, but also the issue of gaining their trust. One has to break through stigmas, educational barriers and cultural beliefs. When it comes to services like mental health, the task is even more complex. Research done in Kenya by Professor David Ndetei founder of the Africa Mental Health Foundation (AMHF) shows that access to mental health services sharply declines as soon as one is outside of any main center. The solution lies in working within the local societies and educating key members of the community.
Working with Community Leaders
Professor Ndetei is a psychiatrist at the University of Nairobi. As such, he has trained many of the psychiatrists in the country. His work, both as a teacher and as the founder of AMHF has significantly improved access to mental health services in Kenya. Recognizing the need to build an infrastructure of accessible knowledge in this field, one of AMHF’s main goals is to educate. The organization supports local research into various areas related to mental health and psychiatry, and provides professional training to traditional healers, nurses, and local health workers.
By shifting some psychiatric tasks to local professionals, the mental-health related services become much more accessible and familiar across the country. With more psychiatric trained eyes in rural areas, it also becomes easier to identify people who need the services and ensure that they get the treatment they need..