Integrated mental health screening for obstetric fistula patients in Mali: From evidence to policy.
BACKGROUND:Obstetric fistula significantly impacts women's mental health and well-being. Routine screening for mental health in fistula repair programs can be a gateway to link patients to services, and can produce routine data to inform programmatic investments. This study observed the integration of a mental health screening program into an obstetric fistula repair program in Mali, with two specific objectives: 1) to describe the social and mental health well-being of women presenting with obstetric fistulas in Mali, and 2) to document the impact of the mental health screening pilot on policy change in Mali. METHODS:Seven fistula repair campaigns were conducted between June 2016 and May 2017. All individuals presenting for fistula repair completed a mental health assessment at intake, including a depression screener (PHQ-9) and an assessment of psycho-social impacts of fistula. The depression screener was repeated three months following inpatient discharge. Findings were shared with stakeholders in Mali and impacts on policy were documented. RESULTS:Of 207 women who presented for fistula repair, 167 patients completed the mental health assessment at surgical intake, and 130 patients repeated the screener at 3-month follow-up. At intake, 36.5% of women had moderate or severe depression, decreasing to 16.9% at follow-up. The mean depression score differed significantly by timepoint (9.14 vs. 6.72, p <0.001). Results were shared in a report with stakeholders, and consultations with the Mali Ministry of Health. As a result of advocacy, mental health was a key component of Mali's National Fistula Prevention and Treatment Strategy (2018-2022). CONCLUSION:The high prevalence of depression in Malian fistula patients underscores a need for more robust mental health support for patients after surgery. Data on mental health from routine screening informs community reintegration strategies for individual patients, elevates the overall quality of care of fistula repair programs by addressing patients' holistic health needs, and contributes to evidence-informed decision-making and data-driven policy change within the larger health system.
Watt, MH; Nguyen, T-V; Touré, C; Traoré, D; Wesson, J; Baumgartner, JN
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