The acceptability and feasibility of task-sharing for mental healthcare in low and middle income countries: a systematic review

Soc Sci Med. 2013 Nov:97:82-6. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.08.004. Epub 2013 Aug 24.


Task-sharing has frequently been proposed as a strategy to overcome human resource shortages in order to scale up mental health care. Although evidence suggests this approach is effective, to date no review has been conducted to assess its acceptability and feasibility among service users and health care practitioners. This review summarises current findings and provides evidence-based recommendations to improve the success and sustainability of task-sharing approaches. All study designs were included and both qualitative and quantitative data were extracted and reviewed using a comparative thematic analysis. In total, 21 studies were included, nine of which were of strong or adequate quality and twelve of unknown quality. The review highlighted that task-sharing is not an outright solution for overcoming human resource shortages in low and middle income countries. A number of factors need to be considered in order for task-sharing to be acceptable and feasible, for example the incidence of distress experienced by the task-sharing workforce, their self-perceived level of competence, the acceptance of the workforce by other health care professionals and the incentives provided to ensure workforce retention. As the main barrier to addressing these is a lack of resources, an increased investment in mental health care is essential in order to ensure that task-sharing interventions are successful and sustainable.

Keywords: Low and middle income countries; Mental health; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Workforce