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Integrated mental health services in China: challenges and planning for the future

13 Oct 2017

AbstractEager to build an integrated community-based mental health system, in 2004 China started the ‘686 Programme’, whose purpose was to integrate hospital and community services for patients with serious mental illness. In 2015, the National Mental Health Working Plan (2015–2020) proposed an ambitious strategy for implementing this project. The goal of this review is to assess potential opportunities for and barriers to successful implementation of a community-based mental health system that integrates hospital and community mental health services into the general healthcare system. We examine 7066 sources in both English and Chinese: the academic peer-reviewed literature, the grey literature on mental health policies, and documents from government and policymaking agencies. Although China has proposed a number of innovative programmes to address its mental health burden, several of these proposals have yet to be fully activated, particularly those that focus on integrated care. Integrating mental health services into China’s general healthcare system holds great promise for increased access to and quality improvement in mental health services, as well as decreased stigma and more effective management of physical and mental health comorbidities. This article examines the challenges to integrating mental health services into China’s general healthcare system, especially in the primary care sphere, including: accurately estimating mental health needs, integrating mental and physical healthcare, increasing workforce development and training, resolving interprofessional issues, financing and funding, developing an affordable and sustainable mental health system, and delivering care to specific subpopulations to meet the needs of China’s diverse populace. As China’s political commitment to expanding its mental health system is rapidly evolving, we offer suggestions for future directions in addressing China’s mental health needs.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Health Policy and Planning