Integration of Mental Health into Primary Care using the Virtual Campus Platform: A Collaboration between Caribbean Countries and Canada

PAHO and the Montreal WHO-PAHO-CC developed a novel approach aimed at integrating mental health into primary care, in collaboration with the MoH's of 5 countries from the Eastern Caribbean. It comprised a multimodal training program featuring PAHO's 'Public Health Virtual Campus' platform, but also using several other modalities. In this program, materials, quizzes, assignments and reference documents are resident online, while lectures, discussion groups, journaling exercises, and cybercafé activities also occur online for registrants to the course, through the VC website. Tutors are involved actively in every step of the process.

The program met with significant success and has resulted in PHC clinicians becoming more comfortable in diagnosing and managing MH problems, and in changes in the established roles of personnel working in MH care to better accommodate mental health issues in the countries involved. We have good qualitative evidence that this is being to the advantage of persons experiencing mental health problems. One interesting outcome is that GPs having taken the training have become resource-persons and are advocating for the integration of mental health considerations into clinical practices. The outcomes in terms of learning, integration of knowledge into practices, improvements in attitudes toward people with a mental illness, and taking leadership in developing mental health services locally, were all very positive.

There have been some formal and informal discussions about this project with WHO-Geneva staff.