Following a situation appraisal in 2001, a six year mental health reform programme (Egymen) 2002-7 was initiated by an Egyptian-Finnish bilateral aid project at the request of a former Egyptian minister of health, and the work was incorporated directly into the Ministry of Health and Population from 2007 onwards. This paper describes the aims, methodology and implementation of the mental health reforms and mental health policy in Egypt 2002-2009.
A multi-faceted and comprehensive programme which combined situation appraisal to inform planning; establishment of a health sector system for coordination, supervision and training of each level (national, governorate, district and primary care); development workshops; production of toolkits, development of guidelines and standards; encouragement of intersectoral liaison at each level; integration of mental health into health management systems; and dedicated efforts to improve forensic services, rehabilitation services, and child psychiatry services.
The project has achieved detailed situation appraisal, epidemiological needs assessment, inclusion of mental health into the health sector reform plans, and into the National Package of Essential Health Interventions, mental health masterplan (policy guidelines) to accompany the general health policy, updated Egyptian mental health legislation, Code of Practice, adaptation of the WHO primary care guidelines, primary care training, construction of a quality system of roles and responsibilities, availability of medicines at primary care level, public education about mental health, and a research programme to inform future developments. Intersectoral liaison with education, social welfare, police and prisons at national level is underway, but has not yet been established for governorate and district levels, nor mental health training for police, prison staff and teachers.
The bilateral collaboration programme initiated a reform programme which has been sustained beyond the end of the funding. The project has demonstrated the importance of using a multi-faceted and comprehensive programme to promote sustainable system change, key elements of which include a focus on the use of rapid appropriate treatment at primary care level, strengthening the referral system, interministerial and intersectoral liaison, rehabilitation, and media work to mobilize community engagement.