Common mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder negatively impact health outcomes for millions of individuals with physical health conditions. Despite clear links between mental illnesses and poor health outcomes, little research is conducted in Kenya on prevention and treatment of common mental disorders, particularly in general medical settings where the vast majority of Kenyans receive care. Like most other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya lacks expertise in research on the prevention and treatment of mental health disorders. To address this gap in expertise, the University of Nairobi (UON) proposes to work with its clinical partner Kenyatta National Hospital, and the University of Washington (UW), to build interdisciplinary research training programs for its faculty and students. The UON and UW have had interdisciplinary research training partnerships in existence for over 25 years, including the recently funded UON Partnership for Innovative Medical Education in Kenya (PRIME-K) through the Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI), which includes a Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health linked award. We propose to leverage these existing partnerships, mental health research expertise, and training programs to improve mental health research capacity at UON by training faculty from psychiatry, psychology, nursing and public health in mental health research methodology and implementation science and providing them with tools needed to be effective mentors (Aim 1).
The second aim will focus on training postgraduates in these disciplines in mental health research through coursework and mentored research projects that take an implementation science approach (Aim 2). In the final aim, we will establish a mental health research resource centre based at UON and supported by UON and UW faculty which will provide screening/intervention tools and technical expertise (Aim 3). In keeping with PRIME-K, the proposed mental health research training program will take an interdisciplinary and decentralized approach by incorporating trainees from the collaborating institutions outside Nairobi in years 2 and 3, basing implementation science projects at these rural district hospitals and promoting access to resources among those not centrally based. In this way, the program will build capacity to address mental health concerns across Kenya while creating a strong, central core of faculty, students and support staff at the UON.
This program will help to build mental health research capacity in Kenya by equipping health care professionals with the skills needed to study effective screening and intervention programs and in this way improve both psychiatric and general health outcomes nationally, regionally in East Africa, and globally.