As many readers of Gede blogs will have seen, last week, the United Nations adopted what have been called ‘the new millennium development goals’ – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While some commentators have questioned the sheer range of the Goals themselves (SDGs are certainly ambitious with 17 new goals and 169 targets which will help to define ‘development’ from 2015 to 2030), the fact that they now include mental health is being seen as a significant step forward on many different levels.
SDGs include mental health in the following ways –
Paragraph 7 – “We envisage a world…with equitable and universal access to quality education at all levels, to health care and social protection, where physical, mental and social well-being are assured”,
Paragraph 26 – “To promote physical and mental health and well-being, and to extend life expectancy for all, we must achieve universal health coverage and access to quality health care. We are committed to the prevention and treatment of non communicable diseases, including behavioural, developmental and neurological disorders, which constitute a major challenge for sustainable development”,
Mental health is also included in Goals 3.4, 3.5, 3.8 –
Goal 3.4 – “By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being”,
Goal 3.5 – “Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol”,
Goal 3.8 – “Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.”
As many commentators have noted, this agenda implies the inclusion of mental health within universal health coverage, a development very much in line with the advocacy positions adopted by organisations such as WHO.
The inclusion of mental health into internationally agreed development targets represents a significant victory for those organisations (including Gede) which added their voices to the chorus that became deafening in the lead up to the UN meeting last week. Now, however, the real challenge must be faced – how can mental health be integrated into existing health platforms in low and middle income settings in particular? This is already the cutting edge focus of the Foundation’s work which will give us an increasing important voice in the years to come as more and more underserved and stigmatised health burdens (many of which are non communicable) come ‘out of the shadows’.