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Regional Mental Health Networks in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

NAMHC Concept Clearance


Pamela Y. Collins, M.D., M.P.H.
Director, Office for Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health
Director, Office of Rural Mental Health Research


To establish regional centers for coordinated mental health research and research capacity-building in low- and middle-income countries.


Neuropsychiatric disorders contribute significantly to the global burden of disease in high, middle, and low-income countries. These disorders account for approximately 30 percent of the total burden of non-communicable diseases.  In Sub-Saharan Africa, the disability-adjusted life years attributable to psychiatric conditions surpass the proportion attributable to nutritional deficiencies, tuberculosis, or maternal complications from childbirth. Yet, insufficient resources in low- and middle-income countries have resulted in a dearth of research that addresses the prevention, preemption, and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders in these settings. Recent priority-setting exercises that have focused exclusively on the mental health research needs of low- and middle-income countries have consistently identified implementation of treatment interventions, epidemiology and disease burden, and health systems or policy research as areas that need attention across multiple settings. 

The goal of the initiative is to develop multidisciplinary regional research centers, with complementary areas of expertise, in low- and middle-income countries, that will conduct research of public health relevance in these settings, build research infrastructure, and develop research capacity.   The centers will provide resources to 1) develop or strengthen regional collaborations, including partnerships among governmental and non-governmental organizations, research institutions, and mental health service user advocacy groups; 2) conduct basic, translational, clinical, or policy research, taking advantage of health system and sociocultural diversity;  3) support research capacity building; and 4) educate local communities on research processes and study outcomes.

Scientific areas of interest include:

  • Development, evaluation, or optimization of approaches for the implementation of  mental health interventions in multiple health system settings (within or between countries);
  • Creation of strategies for the integration, analysis, long-term maintenance, and sharing of large, multidisciplinary data sets;
  • Development of methodologies to evaluate  the effectiveness of  real-world mental health interventions delivered through community mental health and hospital-based services in the public and private sectors; and
  • Provision of innovative research mentoring and capacity-building opportunities.

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