New Grant Supports Mental Health Training in Developing Countries

Fogarty International Center has awarded $5.8 million to the New York State Psychiatric Institute and four other institutions to support crucial research training in low- and middle-income countries. The training awards are in response to the rapid growth of mental illness and other noncommunicable diseases in developing countries, where clinicians and researchers who are properly trained to deal with these conditions are often in short supply.

Five-year grants from the Chronic, Non-communicable Diseases and Disorders Across the Lifespan: Fogarty International Research Training Award program will enable institutions in affected countries to build expertise, create curriculum in research areas related to noncommunicable health problems, and ultimately produce locally relevant, evidence-based interventions.

"Chronic diseases continue to rapidly increase in low- and middle-income countries, affecting the quality of life of their populations and weakening their economies," says Fogarty director Roger I. Glass. "These new awards will help build the ranks of trained, locally based experts who can tackle these complex conditions."

The awards will support an array of projects. Mental health implementation training for Mozambican scientists will be the focus of a “South-South” (between developing countries), a Portuguese-language collaborative initiative being launched by NYSPI in partnership with Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique and the Federal University of São Paulo in Brazil. The ultimate goal is to establish Mozambique as a model for mental health training for other Portuguese-speaking African countries and other low-resource regions.

“Our department's expertise in global mental health implementation science, as well as our collaborations with our long-term Brazilian partners at UNIFESP and the Vanderbilt Global Health Center, led to this training grant application for mental health implementation research, one of the first of its kind in NIH,” said Milton Wainberg, MD, research psychiatrist at NYSPI and associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia, who is co-principal investigator with Maria Oquendo, MD, professor of psychiatry and vice chair for education.

“As a clear leader in the Portuguese-speaking African countries (PALOP—Países Africanos de Língua Oficial Portuguesa),” said Dr. Wainberg, “Mozambique can be a model to other PALOP and sub-Saharan African countries as well as other low-resource settings, including the United States, and thus help decrease the global mental health research and treatment gap.”

Chronic diseases are steadily increasing around the globe; they will soon account for more than 50 percent of health care expenditures and more than 60 percent of the disability-adjusted life years. Fogarty's NCD LIFESPAN program is designed to provide a foundation for the development and implementation of evidence-based interventions, relevant to noncommunicable diseases across the lifespan in low- and middle-income countries. In some cases, sufficient evidence exists for interventions and implementation strategies, while in other cases, the evidence base may not be well developed or relevant to the given country or culture. To address this gap, training across the spectrum of research disciplines is encouraged—from basic biomedical, behavioral, and social sciences to clinical and applied sciences, including translational and implementation science emphasizing the resources, context, and needs of those in local settings.

Fogarty's NIH funding partners for the awards include the National Institute of Nursing Research and the National Institute of Mental Health.