PRI’s Joanne Silberner on Mental illness in Uganda

Uganda works to improve mental health care

Health journalist Joanne Silberner, former health policy correspondent based at NPR’s flagship in DC and now (lucky for us) based here in Seattle at the University of Washington, has done an excellent report on the lack of mental illness care in Uganda for PRI’s The World.

I’ve done a few stories here about the mental health in the global health context, noting it is both a massive contributor to the burden of disease yet gets almost no attention when it comes to the global health agenda.

As Silberner reports, the first in a PRI series she’s doing on mental health in the developing world, improved acess to work training for the mentally ill is perhaps just as important as improving and expanding access to treatment:

About three quarters of people with mental illness in low-income countries don’t have access to treatments for their conditions, according to the World Health Organization. And even among those who do get care, treatment may not be enough, says Tina Ntulo, who manages the Uganda chapter of a charity called BasicNeeds.

“It doesn’t matter how much you shout off the rooftops that people’s rights should be respected,” she says. “In Africa, you are measured by what you bring to the table, what you bring back to the house.”

Silberner, who moved to Seattle when her partner Howard Frumkin was appointed dean of the UW School of Public Health and now teaches global health communications, has long been reporting on inequities in health and health policy.

The next installment in her series fo PRI’s The World will focus on mental illness within the context of the eight Millennium Development Goals — the international community’s over-arching strategy aimed at reducing poverty and disease in poor countries.


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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.