Invest resources to deal with mental health, disabilities: PM

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NEW YORK, Sept 27, 2019 (BSS)- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today urged all members states of the United Nations and development partners to invest resources in dealing with mental health and disabilities as part of the primary healthcare programme.

“I call everyone, all member states of the United Nations and development partners, to invest resources in dealing with mental health and disabilities as part of the primary healthcare programme,” she said.

The prime minister made the call while addressing a high-level side event on ‘Sustainable universal health coverage: Comprehensive primary care inclusive of mental health and disabilities’ organised by the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the UN at Conference Room 1 in the UN Headquarters here this morning.

Sheikh Hasina said that recognising mental health as an integral part of the primary health care has many advantages.

“Firstly, early diagnosis and intervention help early recovery, secondly, in the case of co-morbidity or presence of two or more diseases in one individual, treatment of mental health helps the remission of the other disease. Thirdly, community clinics can also provide continuous follow-up care in case of any treatment prescribed by hospitals,” she said.

The premier said that mental health and disability often are left out while prioritizing universal health coverage.

“We need access to medicines and affordable quality services through trained health personnel, and efficient delivery system … we also need special strategies to prevent mental disorders,” she said.

Acknowledging the critical role of health services at the grassroots level, Sheikh Hasina said they introduced ‘Community Health Clinics’ (CHC) during the first term of her government in 1998.

“Over 14,000 clinics, located primarily in rural areas, are set up through public-private partnership. To establish such clinics, land is donated by the community, and the government constructs the buildings, provides skilled personnel, medicine and equipment free of cost,” she said.

The prime minister said that community clinics are now recognized as an effective model for providing universal health coverage, which is inclusive of preventive mental health services and basic care for persons with disabilities.

She said that in 2013, the government adopted the “Persons with Disabilities’ Rights & Protection Act 2013” and in 2018 the “Mental Health Act”.

“Now we’re developing a ‘National Strategic Plan on Mental Health’ giving priority to a multi-stakeholder, comprehensive and holistic community-based mental health services,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina hoped that international communities will come forward sharing their valuable experience and help identifying technical and financial resources.

Terming health as an integral part of the development journey, the premier said it is essential for continued economic and social progress.

“The ‘Universal Health Coverage’ helps ensuring access to quality health services without adding financial hardship to the disadvantaged people. The ‘Primary Health Care’ also provides essential health care to the people,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina mentioned that ‘Target 3.4’ of SDGs emphasises promotion of mental health and well-being as part of health security.

“Disability is also recognised as a global public health issue with human rights dimensions as well as a development priority,” she said.

The premier said that the WHO global action plan on disability also envisioned an inclusive society in which all persons with disabilities can live with dignity and equal opportunity.

“In Bangladesh we’re pursuing both the issues seriously in formulating our health policies and programmes”, she added.

Bhutanese Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health and Population Upendra Yadav and Regional Director of World Health Organization (WHO) and SEARO Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh spoke at the event chaired by Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Zahid Maleque.

Adviser to the Director General of WHO on Mental Health and Autism and Chairperson of National Advisory Committee on Autism and NDDs, Bangladesh Saima Wazed Hossain, Director General, Directorate General of Health Services, Bangladesh Dr Abul Kalam Azad, Chief of Health and Associate Director, Programme Division, UNICEF Dr Stefan Swartling Peterson, CEO and Founder of Global Partners United Evelyn Cherow, Assistant Professor of Education, Adelphi University Stephen Shore, Pershing Square Professor of Global Health, Harvard Medical School Vikram Patel and Senior Director, Project 2025 at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Michael Rosanoff were the expert discussants at the event.