A link exists between health research and the capability of countries to respond to the health challenges of their populations. Unfortunately, there is very little research activity in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) despite the large burden of disease that they have. This gap between needs and the level of research efforts to address them is even more striking in the field of mental health research. Estimates have shown that less than 6% of the global production of published research articles was contributed by researchers from LMIC in the years 1998 - 2001. Also, the few research activities taking place in these countries are often poorly coordinated and do not commonly address the pressing population health priorities. The reasons for the low level of MH research in LMIC range from low human resource base, brain drain, and lack of supportive research infrastructure and environment. Poor research funding and a general lack of policy support are other common reasons for the low MH research productivity. However, two overarching problems have also been noted, especially in regard to MH research environment in Sub-Saharan Africa: 1) the inadequate research skills capacity of potential, and 2) the relative isolation in which the few researchers work. These problems make the procurement of competitive grant support difficult, create disincentives for local researchers to remain engaged and retard the creation of necessary critical mass for mutual support and mentoring. The proposed hub will address the issue of research capacity building by focusing on: 1) Developing research capacity and appreciation of the value of research in a broad range of stakeholders: academics, clinicians (both physicians and non-physicians), and policy makers;2) Developing training opportunities that address specific research skills with a view to meeting previously identified needs of potential trainees;3) Encouraging inter-disciplinary research that builds mutual support and promotes partnership;4) Initiation of sustainable mentoring relationships;and 5) Leaving a legacy of the project by compiling resources generated during the life of the project into training materials of relelvance to educational institutions and for curriculum developments.
Mental health research is low in much of Sub-Saharan Africa. A critical effort to improve mental health research in the region must build research capacity in a broad range of stakeholders and seek to develop a critical mass of such researchers for sustainability. We outline an approach to achieve these goals.
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