WHO's Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems: collecting essential information for policy and service delivery

Psychiatr Serv. 2007 Jun;58(6):816-21. doi: 10.1176/ps.2007.58.6.816.


Information about mental health systems is essential for mental health planning to reduce the burden of neuropsychiatric disorders. Unfortunately, many low- and middle-income countries lack systematic information on their mental health systems. The objectives, scope, structure, and contents of mental health assessment and monitoring instruments commonly used in high-income countries may not be appropriate for use in middle- and low-income countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently developed the WHO Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS), a comprehensive assessment tool for mental health systems designed for middle- and low-income countries. WHO-AIMS was developed through an iterative process that included input from in-country and international experts on the clarity, content, validity, and feasibility of the instrument, as well as a pilot trial. The resulting instrument, WHO-AIMS 2.2, consists of six domains: policy and legislative framework, mental health services, mental health in primary care, human resources, public information and links with other sectors, and monitoring and research. These domains address the ten recommendations of the World Health Report 2001 through 28 facets and 155 items. All six domains need to be assessed to form a basic, yet broad, picture of a mental health system, with a focus on health sector activities. WHO-AIMS provides essential information for mental health policy and service delivery. Countries will be able to develop information-based mental health policy and plans with clear baseline information and targets. Moreover, they will be able to monitor progress in implementing reform policies, providing community services, and involving consumers, families, and other stakeholders in mental health promotion, prevention, care and rehabilitation. This article provides an overview of the rationale, development process, and potential uses and benefits of WHO-AIMS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Health Care Reform
  • Health Plan Implementation
  • Health Policy*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Needs Assessment
  • Policy Making
  • Program Evaluation
  • Psychotropic Drugs / supply & distribution
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care*
  • World Health Organization*


  • Psychotropic Drugs