© WHO / Isaac Rudakubana

Transforming the delivery of NCD and mental health services in primary health care: Launch of the fourth cycle of the NCD Lab

Yvonne Arivalagan | 10 Apr 2024

A radical shift in global public health is needed to avert millions of preventable and premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, as well as mental health conditions. Primary health care (PHC) approaches present an important opportunity to transform and innovate how NCD and mental health services are delivered.

For its 4th cycle, the WHO NCD Lab is looking for innovative solutions that strengthen the delivery of NCD and mental health services using the PHC approach. Selected innovations have the potential to shape global policy and practice on NCDs and mental health care. They are included in a global portfolio of leading NCD innovations and receive tailored support to enhance impact and achieve scale.

Submit your project by 30 June 2024.

What is the Primary Health Care approach?

Primary Health Care is a holistic, whole-of-society approach that enables health systems to support a person’s health needs – from health promotion to disease prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, palliative care and more. PHC ensures that health care services are centred on people’s needs and respect their preferences.

The PHC approach leverage three key components:

  1. integrated health services to meet people’s health needs throughout their lives,
  2. multisectoral action to address determinants of health, and
  3. empowering individuals, families and communities to take charge of their own health.

This approach improves quality of care, access to services and user experience, and – with long-term investment – overall population health.

Strengthening the delivery of NCD and mental health services by leveraging the PHC approach

Leveraging the PHC approach is a promising way to address NCDs and mental health conditions in a more effective and equitable manner. This is because the majority of NCDs and their risk factors can be prevented or managed at the primary care level. NCDs that are recognized and managed early often have better treatment outcomes and may not require expensive secondary and tertiary care.

In addition, the number of people living with both communicable diseases such as HIV and AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis and NCDs is rapidly rising. This urgently demands integrated primary care services that centre on the needs of people rather than on types of diseases. Long-term, preventative, community-based, integrated and multisectoral actions at the primary care level hold the key to making this shift.

New ways of delivering NCD and mental health services must therefore focus on the three components of PHC. People living with NCDs and mental health conditions, their families, caregivers and communities, must be empowered and meaningfully engaged, ensuring adaptability and cultural tailoring to different contexts. Providers at the primary care level, such as doctors, nurses, community health workers and other health specialists, as well as service delivery platforms need to ensure greater integration, collaboration, coordination, and continuity.

Multisectoral engagement beyond the health sector, including education, finance, transport, trade and agriculture is also needed to reduce risks associated with NCDs, and promote interventions to prevent and control them. New technologies from mobile devices to artificial intelligence hold additional potential for improving NCD screening, diagnosis, monitoring and/or management and improve processes, relationships and outcomes of service delivery.

For its fourth cycle, the NCD Lab welcomes submissions of innovative solutions that transform the delivery of NCD and mental health services by leveraging the PHC approach. Innovative projects can be submitted by individuals or organizations to one of three NCD Lab thematic areas: Women and Girls, NCDs and the Next Generation, and Meaningful Engagement of People Living with NCDs and Mental Health Conditions.

Join a growing global community of innovators, implementers and partners.