Promotion, prevention and protection: Interventions at the population- and community-levels for mental, neurological and substance use disorders in low- and middle-income countries

Inge Petersen*, Sara Evans-Lacko, Maya Semrau, Margaret M. Barry, Dan Chisholm, Petra Gronholm, Catherine O. Egbe, Graham Thornicroft

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In addition to services within the health system, interventions at the population and community levels are also important for the promotion of mental health, primary prevention of mental, neurological and substance use (MNS) disorders, identification and case detection of MNS disorders; and to a lesser degree treatment, care and rehabilitation. This study aims to identify "best practice" and "good practice" interventions that can feasibly be delivered at these population- and community-levels in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), to aid the identification of resource efficiencies and allocation in LMICs. Methods: A narrative review was conducted given the wide range of relevant interventions. Expert consensus was used to identify "best practice" at the population-level on the basis of existing quasi-experimental natural experiments and cost effectiveness, with small scale emerging and promising evidence comprising "good practice". At the community-level, using expert consensus, the ACE (Assessing Cost-Effectiveness in Prevention Project) grading system was used to differentiate "best practice" interventions with sufficient evidence from "good practice" interventions with limited but promising evidence. Results: At the population-level, laws and regulations to control alcohol demand and restrict access to lethal means of suicide were considered "best practice". Child protection laws, improved control of neurocysticercosis and mass awareness campaigns were identified as "good practice". At the community level, socio-emotional learning programmes in schools and parenting programmes during infancy were identified as "best practice". The following were all identified as "good practice": Integrating mental health promotion strategies into workplace occupational health and safety policies; mental health information and awareness programmes as well as detection of MNS disorders in schools; early child enrichment/preschool educational programs and parenting programs for children aged 2-14years; gender equity and/or economic empowerment programs for vulnerable groups; training of gatekeepers to identify people with MNS disorders in the community; and training non-specialist community members at a neighbourhood level to assist with community-based support and rehabilitation of people with mental disorders. Conclusion: Interventions provided at the population- and community-levels have an important role to play in promoting mental health, preventing the onset, and protecting those with MNS disorders. The importance of inter-sectoral engagement and the need for further research on interventions at these levels in LMICs is highlighted.

Original languageEnglish
Article number30
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Community
  • Low- and middle-income countries
  • Mental health
  • Population-level


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