NIMH Awards $3 Million to McSilver Institute to Establish Global Research Center on Child Mental Health in Sub-Saharan Africa

PUBLISHED ON April 17, 2016

The McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at NYU Silver School of Social Work (McSilver Institute) has been awarded a five-year, $3 million grant by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to establish a global, trans-disciplinary center focused on reducing child mental health service and research gaps in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Partners in the global center, known as the African Center for Collaborative Child mental health implementation Research (ACCCR), include NYU Child Study Center, NYU School of Medicine, NYU College of Global Public Health, and Columbia University’s International Center for Child Health and Asset Development (ICHAD), as well as academic institutions, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda. To kick off the center's important work, the McSilver Institute is partnering with ICHAD and the AfriChild Center at Makerere University to host a Conference on Child Behavioral Health in Sub-Saharan Africa from July 12th to 15th in Kampala, Uganda.

According to McSilver Institute Director and ACCCR Principal Investigator, Mary McKay, PhD, children in Sub-Saharan Africa are burdened by significant unmet mental health needs, particularly those struggling with poverty and associated stressors. "The World Health Organization has estimated that 20% of children in the region may struggle with serious mental health issues, and systems are simply not equipped to meet the need," said Dr. McKay. "However, there has been recent progress in some countries in the region to begin prioritizing children and adolescents affected by mental health challenges. This center will seize on that momentum, and will field studies that incorporate context-specific factors within African countries, such as the high levels of stigma associated with mental illness, skepticism about professional versus community or religious interventions, the large number of youth orphaned by HIV and other health epidemics, and the lack of economic opportunities for African youth."

The ACCCR has four specific aims:

1. To establish and engage a research consortium of academics working in a range of disciplines, as well as government, NGO, community and cultural stakeholders in Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa to focus on addressing child mental health burden, Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) implementation, scale-up, and service gaps;

2. To build child mental health implementation research capacity, including developing monitoring systems and conducting small-scale implementation studies, in Ghana and Kenya;

3. To conduct an EBP scale-up research study in Uganda, which will examine the influence of government, NGOs, families, schools, and communities on the uptake, implementation, effectiveness and sustainability of EBPs that address serious child disruptive behavioral challenges; and

4. To disseminate timely and pragmatic findings to government officials and consortium partners to optimize roll-outs of EBPs and scale-up process via an African Policy Research Advisory Board, consisting of an expanded network of scientists, NGOs and government officials.

Dr. McKay noted, "The work of the ACCCR will expand access to effective mental health care worldwide, and strengthen the public health impact of research by improving knowledge on transporting evidence-based interventions into practice."

The US-based members of the ACCCR research partnership are scientific leaders in child mental health services and implementation science, as well as investigators with current National Institutes of Health-funded studies and capacity building programs set across Africa. The Sub-Saharan Africa-based members are drawn from the region’s leading academic institutions. Co-investigators include Kimberly Hoagwood, PhD of NYU School of Medicine and Child Study Center; Keng-Yen Huang, PhD, MPH and Olugbenga G. Ogedegbe, MD, MPH of NYU School of Medicine and College of Global Public Health; Fred Ssewamala, PhD of Columbia University School of Social Work and International Center for Child Health and Asset Development; Arvin Bhana, PhD and Inge Petersen of University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa; Anne Wanjiro Mbwayo, PhD of University of Nairobi in Kenya; Richard Adanu, MB ChB, FWACS, MPH of University of Ghana School of Public Health; and Edward Kirumira, PhD of Makerere University in Uganda.