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Translation of the World Mental Health Survey Data to Policies: An Exploratory Study of Stakeholders’ Perceptions of How Epidemiologic Data Can Be Utilized for Policy in the Field of Mental Health

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The World Mental Health Survey Consortium, a World Health Organization and Harvard University collaboration, totaling 28 countries participated in a uniform randomized general population survey, making use of translated versions of the WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview. One of the major purposes of the survey was to help inform policy decision makers regarding mental health. However many obstacles prevent the direct translation of survey data to policies. We report on an investigation of the mechanisms involved in the transformation of survey data into mental health policies. After conducting 11 interviews of individuals representing 12 countries that participated in the survey, we found that although governments did take an active role in the conduct of the survey, this did not necessarily translate into direct policy changes. A number of factors were noted to influence the adoption and implementation of mental health policy changes from the survey data: the establishment of links between the research group and policy-makers; the identification of costs of mental disorder; definition of clear solutions; and lastly the generation of political will. The range of countries included in this investigation has enabled comparisons in the use of evidence to influence policies in different contexts. Gaining an understanding of why some countries were successful and why others struggled in transforming survey results to policies may help to inform researchers of translational issues of research to mental health policies in the future.


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Correspondence to Lauren Weinberg MPH.

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Weinberg, L., Whiteford, H., Almeida, J.C. et al. Translation of the World Mental Health Survey Data to Policies: An Exploratory Study of Stakeholders’ Perceptions of How Epidemiologic Data Can Be Utilized for Policy in the Field of Mental Health. Public Health Rev 34, 4 (2012) doi:10.1007/BF03391672

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Key Words

  • World Mental Health Initiative
  • mental health
  • epidemiology of mental health
  • mental health policies