Health policy and integrated mental health care in the SADC region : strategic clarification using the Rainbow Model

Janse Van Rensburg, Andre ; Fourie, Pieter (2016)

CITATION: Janse van Rensburg, A. & Fourie, P. 2016. Health policy and integrated mental health care in the SADC region : strategic clarification using the Rainbow Model. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 10:49, doi:10.1186/s13033-016-0081-7.

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


Background: Mental illness is a well-known challenge to global development, particularly in low-to-middle income countries. A key health systems response to mental illness is different models of integrated health care, especially popular in the South African Development Community (SADC) region. This complex construct is often not welldefined in health policy, hampering implementation efforts. A key development in this vein has been the Rainbow Model of integrated care, a comprehensive framework and taxonomy of integrated care based on the integrative functions of primary care. The purpose of this study was to explore the nature and strategic forms of integrated mental health care in selected SADC countries, specifically how integrated care is outlined in state-driven policies. Methods: Health policies from five SADC countries were analysed using the Rainbow Model as framework. Electronic copies of policy documents were transferred into NVivo 10, which aided in the framework analysis on the different types of integrated mental health care promoted in the countries assessed. Results: Several Rainbow Model components were emphasised. Clinical integration strategies (coordination of person-focused care) such as centrality of client needs, case management and continuity were central considerations, while others such as patient education and client satisfaction were largely lacking. Professional integration (interprofessional partnerships) was mentioned in terms of agreements on interdisciplinary collaboration and performance management, while organisational integration (inter-organisational relationships) emerged under the guise of interorganisational governance, population needs and interest management. Among others, available resources, population management and stakeholder management fed into system integration strategies (horizontally and vertically integrated systems), while functional integration strategies (financial, management and information system functions) included human resource, information and resource management. Normative integration (a common frame of reference) included collective attitude, sense of urgency, and linking cultures, though aspects such as conflict management, quality features of the informal collaboration, and trust were largely lacking. Conclusions: Most countries stressed the importance of integrating mental health on primary healthcare level, though an absence of supporting strategies could prove to bar implementation. Inter-service collaboration emerged as a significant goal, though a lack of (especially) normative integration dimensions could prove to be a key omission. Despite the usefulness of the Rainbow Model, it failed to adequately frame regional governance aspects of integration, as the SADC Secretariat could play an important role in coordinating and supporting the development and strengthening of better mental health systems.

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