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Building Research Capacity and Collaboration in Global Mental Health

Meeting Summary
Bethesda, Maryland

Sponsored by:
Office for Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health (ORDGMH)
National Institute of Mental Health

On March 24–25, 2011, the Office for Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health (ORDGMH) in the Office of the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) invited stakeholders from around the world to discuss strategies for developing and sustaining research capacity in global mental health. Sixty-two participants from East Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa attended. They represented funders (National Institutes of Health, Wellcome Trust, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research); mental health non-governmental organizations (NGOs); the World Health Organization; universities; and, other government agencies. The objectives of the workshop were: to pinpoint barriers to and opportunities for innovative research capacity-building in three specific domains (genetics, child mental health, and implementation research) in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs); to examine existing models of North-South and South-South collaborations for research capacity building; and, to explore new models of training and partnership that may further the research capacity-building agenda. Participants discussed key barriers, facilitators, and strategies for developing and sustaining research careers in these three areas.

ORDGMH Director Pamela Y. Collins, M.D., M.P.H., opened the meeting by highlighting how global interconnectedness and interdependencies and local forces inform global mental health. The first day focused on models for developing leadership in global mental health that include an awareness of and skills for research in tandem with training in mental health policy and practice. Investigators working in the United States, Costa Rica, Uganda, Nigeria, Egypt, Brazil, South Africa, India, and Vietnam presented their research activities and training experiences in genetics, child mental health, and implementation science. The second day centered on strategies required to develop architecture for global collaboration to advance the research capacity building efforts. NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D., moderated the first session on day two, which included discussions of funding priorities for the Wellcome Trust and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, highlights of NGOs (The Carter Center and No Health Without Mental Health) activities and examples of and need for leveraging partnerships for research capacity building. The afternoon panels allowed NGOs from the United States, Kenya, and India; United States early stage investigators, and academics to identify their unique roles, needs, and contributions towards this endeavor; and to discuss the future directions of research capacity building initiatives.

The following themes emerged from the meeting presentations and discussions:

  • There are tremendous barriers to research capacity building in LMICs and in low-resource settings in high-income countries, including: stigma at individual, societal, institutional, and policy levels; and, limited financing, infrastructure and human resources;
  • There is a need for leadership development in global mental health integrated training in systems, policy, services, and research methods, and is crucial for effective application of evidence;
  • Collaboration in global mental health research involves public-private, South-South, and North-South partnerships; recognition of the contributions and limitations of the different stakeholders; and, equality between partners;
  • Task-shifting (a process of assigning tasks to less specialized health workers through continuous training, monitoring, and evaluation) in global mental health research should include NGOs, service users, and non-mental health professionals, such as policy makers, the media, faith-based organizations, and other civil society organizations; and,
  • Electronic resources for distance learning (tutoring and mentorship) and web access to scientific literature should be integrated into research capacity building efforts.

For more information, please contact Jude Awuba, M.P.H., at jude.awuba@nih.gov or 301-443-9650.