The majority of the world’s population lives in low-income countries with extremely limited access to mental health care. This gap is largest in African nations, which have the world’s lowest ratio of mental health professionals: just 1.4 per 100,000 people.
For more than a decade, a multinational team of researchers has been exploring ways to close that gap for nearly 50 million orphans in Africa who are grieving the loss of one or both parents. HIV/AIDS and respiratory infections are the leading cause of death.
Being orphaned predicts other problems – problems like substance abuse, dropping out of school, or unemployment. Orphans are also more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior that may lead to new cases of HIV -- and perpetuate a vicious circle.
With a new, five-year $3.4 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, the team led by professors Kathryn Whetten at Duke and Shannon Dorsey at the University of Washington is testing how to help orphans in the Bungoma, Kenya, region.
Their strategy? Train local people with no mental health background to provide Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TFCBT) in schools and community health centers, under the supervision of lay supervisors. The goal is to develop a blueprint for scaling up such a program on a large scale.
- Read more about the current study evaluating "task sharing model" for mental healthcare in Kenya
- Read about a related project, Positive Outcomes for Orphans
- Find out more about the Duke Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research at the Duke Global Health Institute
- Learn about the work of research partner ACE Africa
- Listen to episodes in the series New ideas for Policy in the Developing World. Episodes include Slum Detectives; Robots, WikiLeaks and the Fight Against Human Trafficking; and Childbirth, Babies & Bonuses
- Read the episode transcript
- View the music video of the closing song, Pamoja Tunaweza, by Save the Children Tanzania with funding from the European Union.
Music: Theme music by David Schulman. Additional music by by Blue Dot Sessions.
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Note on translated interviews: In the interest of brevity, some portions of interviews conducted in Swahili were condensed or presented in a different order.