Perspectives and concerns of clients at primary health care facilities involved in evaluation of a national mental health training programme for primary care in Kenya
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEMS
Kings College London, University of Birmingham, University of London, University of Nairobi, Great Lakes Univ, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust
Background: A cluster randomised controlled trial (RCT) of a national Kenyan mental health primary care training programme demonstrated a significant impact on the health, disability and quality of life of clients, despite a severe shortage of medicines in the clinics (Jenkins et al. Submitted 2012). As focus group methodology has been found to be a useful method of obtaining a detailed understanding of client and health worker perspectives within health systems (Sharfritz and Roberts. Health Transit Rev 4:81-85, 1994), the experiences of the participating clients were explored through qualitative focus group discussions in order to better understand the potential reasons for the improved outcomes in the intervention group.
Methods: Two ninety minute focus groups were conducted in Nyanza province, a poor agricultural region of Kenya, with 10 clients from the intervention group clinics where staff had received the training programme, and 10 clients from the control group where staff had not received the training during the earlier randomised controlled trial.
Results: These focus group discussions suggest that the clients in the intervention group noticed and appreciated enhanced communication, diagnostic and counselling skills in their respective health workers, whereas clients in the control group were aware of the lack of these skills. Confidentiality emerged from the discussions as a significant client concern in relation to the volunteer cadre of community health workers, whose only training comes from their respective primary care health workers.
Conclusion: Enhanced health worker skills conferred by the mental health training programme may be responsible for the significant improvement in outcomes for clients in the intervention clinics found in the randomised controlled trial, despite the general shortage of medicines and other health system weaknesses. These findings suggest that strengthening mental health training for primary care staff is worthwhile even where health systems are not strong and where the medicine supply cannot be guaranteed.