The Ha Noi expert statement: Recognition of maternal mental health in resource-constrained settings is essential for achieving the millennium development goals

Jane Fisher, Meena de Mello, Takashi Izutsu, Tuan Tran

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34 Citations (Scopus)


Mental health problems in women during pregnancy and after childbirth and their adverse consequences for child health and development have received sustained detailed attention in high-income countries. In contrast, evidence has only been generated more recently in resource-constrained settings.

In June 2007 the United Nations Population Fund, the World Health Organization, the Key Centre for Women's Health in Society, a WHO Collaborating Centre for Women's Health and the Research and Training Centre for Community Development in Vietnam convened the first international expert meeting on maternal mental health and child health and development in resource-constrained settings. It aimed to appraise the evidence about the nature, prevalence and risks for common perinatal mental disorders in women; the consequences of these for child health and development and ameliorative strategies in these contexts.

The substantial disparity in rates of perinatal mental disorders between women living in high- and low-income settings, suggests social rather than biological determinants. Risks in resource-constrained contexts include: poverty; crowded living situations; limited reproductive autonomy; unintended pregnancy; lack of empathy from the intimate partner; rigid gender stereotypes about responsibility for household work and infant care; family violence; poor physical health and discrimination. Development is adversely affected if infants lack day-to-day interactions with a caregiver who can interpret their cues, and respond effectively. Women with compromised mental health are less able to provide sensitive, responsive infant care. In resource-constrained settings infants whose mothers are depressed are less likely to thrive and to receive optimal care than those whose mothers are well.

The meeting outcome is the Hanoi Expert Statement (Additional file 1). It argues that the Millennium Development Goals to improve maternal health, reduce child mortality, promote gender equality and empower women, achieve universal primary education and eradicate extreme poverty and hunger cannot be attained without a specific focus on women's mental health. It was co-signed by the international expert group; relevant WHO and UNFPA departmental representatives and international authorities. They concur that social rather than medical responses are required. Improvements in maternal mental health require a cross-sectoral response addressing poverty reduction, women's rights, social protection, violence prevention, education and gender in addition to health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 6
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health Systems
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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