The Program for Improving Mental Healthcare PRIME is a consortium of research institutions and Ministries of Health in five countries in Asia and Africa (Ethiopia, India, Nepal, South Africa & Uganda), with partners in the UK and the World Health Organization (WHO). PRIME is supported by the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID), and is a six year programme which was launched in May 2011.

“ Mental health is a neglected area in public health globally, especially in low and middle-income countries, where most people living with mental illness remain untreated. ”  - Prof. Crick Lund, PRIME CEO

PRIME is motivated by the 'treatment gap' in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC)

More than 13% of the global burden of disease is due to mental illness *. Although the vast majority of people affected by mental illness live in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC), most mental health care resources are located in High-Income countries.

This lack of resources for effective treatment has contributed to a large ‘treatment gap’, i.e. up to 4 out of every 5 people with mental illness in LMIC go without mental health care.

* Mental illness includes mental, neurological and substance abuse disorders

PRIME and the WHO mental health Gap Action Programme

PRIME aims to improve the coverage of treatment for priority mental disorders by implementing and evaluating the WHO's mental health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) guidelines.

These guidelines are a practical tool that are intended to empower health care practitioners to deliver mental health services at the primary health care level. PRIME will work closely with Ministries of Health, health care providers, academic institutions and civil society organisations to set up ‘demonstration sites’ in each of the five countries. By generating research evidence aimed at integrating mental health care into primary and maternal health systems, PRIME aims to make a direct contribution to reducing the ‘treatment gap’ not only in the five PRIME countries, but also in other low resource settings.

Goal of PRIME

Thus, the goal of the PRIME is to generate world-class research evidence on the implementation and scaling up of  treatment programmes for priority mental disorders in primary and maternal health care contexts in low resource settings.


We expect to have an impact in the following areas:

  • Increased uptake of findings to influence policy and practice in the study countries, in other LMIC and by development agencies and donors, to support scaling up of mental health care in LMIC
  • Improved mental health, social and economic outcomes for: 
  • populations in the demonstration sites in which the PRIME research programme will be carried out; and
  • other populations in which mental health services have been substantially scaled up, based on the outputs generated by PRIME
  • Sustainable research capacity in the participating country institutions to develop, undertake, and disseminate the research to implement and scale up mental health services
  • Sustainable partnerships for future collaborations between the international partners and, in each country, between academic partners, Ministries of Health and NGOs