Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Evaluating the WHO Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems by comparing mental health policies in four countries

Hamada Hamid, Karen Abanilla, Besa Bauta, Keng-Yen Huang

Mental health is a low priority in most countries around the world. Minimal research and resources have been invested in mental health at the national level. As a result, WHO has developed the Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS) to encourage countries to gather data and to re-evaluate their national mental health policy. This paper demonstrates the utility and limitations of WHO-AIMS by applying the model to four countries with different cultures, political histories and public health policies: Iraq, Japan, the Philippines and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

WHO-AIMS provides a useful model for analysing six domains: policy and legislative framework; mental health services; mental health in primary care; human resources; education of the public at large; and monitoring and research. This is especially important since most countries do not have experts in mental health policy or resources to design their own evaluation tools for mental health systems. Furthermore, WHO-AIMS provides a standardized database for cross-country comparisons. However, limitations of the instrument include the neglect of the politics of mental health policy development, underestimation of the role of culture in mental health care utilization, and questionable measurement validity.

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