Treatments for mental health problems in childhood and adolescence have advanced in the last 15 years. Despite advances in research, most of the evidence on effective interventions comes from high-income countries, while evidence is scarce in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where 90% of world's children and adolescents live. The aim of this review was to identify evidence-based interventions tested in LMICs to treat or prevent child and adolescent mental health problems.
We conducted a systematic review of seven major electronic databases, from January 2007 to July 2019. We included randomised or non-randomised clinical trials that evaluated interventions for children or adolescents aged 6 to 18 years living in LMICs and who had, or were at risk of developing, one or more mental health problems. Results were grouped according to the studied conditions. Due to the heterogeneity of conditions, interventions and outcomes, we performed a narrative synthesis. The review was registered at PROSPERO under the number CRD42019129376.
Of 127,466 references found through our search strategy, 107 studies were included in narrative synthesis after the eligibility verification processes. Nineteen different conditions and nine types of interventions were addressed by studies included in the review. Over 1/3 of studied interventions were superior to comparators, with psychoeducation and psychotherapy having the highest proportion of positive results. One-third of studies were classified as presenting low risk of bias.
This review shows that different interventions have been effective in LMICs and have the potential to close the mental health care gap among children and adolescents in low-resource settings.