Assessing the efficacy of a modified assertive community-based treatment programme in a developing country

Botha, Ulla A. ; Koen, Liezl ; Joska, John A. ; Hering, Linda M. ; Oosthuizen, Piet P. (2010-09)

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.

The original publication is available at


Background: A number of recently published randomized controlled trials conducted in developed countries have reported no advantage for assertive interventions over standard care models. One possible explanation could be that so-called “standard care” has become more comprehensive in recent years, incorporating some of the salient aspects of assertive models in its modus operandi. Our study represents the first randomised controlled trial assessing the effect of a modified assertive treatment service on readmission rates and other measures of outcome in a developing country. Methods: High frequency service users were randomized into an intervention (n = 34) and a control (n = 26) group. The control group received standard community care and the active group an assertive intervention based on a modified version of the international model of assertive community treatment. Study visits were conducted at baseline and 12 months with demographic and illness information collected at visit 1 and readmission rates documented at study end. Symptomatology and functioning were measured at both visits using the PANSS, CDSS, ESRS, WHO-QOL and SOFAS. Results: At 12 month follow-up subjects receiving the assertive intervention had significantly lower total PANSS (p = 0.02) as well as positive (p < 0.01) and general psychopathology (p = 0.01) subscales’ scores. The mean SOFAS score was also significantly higher (p = 0.02) and the mean number of psychiatric admissions significantly lower (p < 0.01) in the intervention group. Conclusions: Our results indicate that assertive interventions in a developing setting where standard community mental services are often under resourced can produce significant outcomes. Furthermore, these interventions need not be as expensive and comprehensive as international, first-world models in order to reduce inpatient days, improve psychopathology and overall levels of functioning in patients with severe mental illness.

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