UKZN's Rural Health Director Awarded Multi-Million Rand Research Grant
The Director of the College of Health Sciences’ Centre for Rural Health, Professor Inge Petersen, and her colleagues, Professor Arvin Bhana of the Medical Research Council and Professor Deepa Rao of the University of Washington, have been awarded a research grant worth US$2 955 303 over a period of five years by the National Institutes of Mental Health.
The grant entails the establishment of a research consortium with South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania, titled the Southern African Research Consortium for Mental Health INTegration (S-MhINT);
The Consortium will evaluate the scale-up of an integrated mental health care package for chronic disorders at primary health care level in South Africa as well as to build implementation science and dissemination research (ISDR) capacity in South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania to implement integrated mental health care at scale.
‘While the S-MhINT grant has been awarded to UKZN, it is a collaborative project with the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington, Muhimbili University in Tanzania and Health Alliance International in Mozambique,’ said Petersen.
‘The departments of Health from all three countries are also key collaborators.’
The project builds on years of work on the development and evaluation of integrated models of mental health care in South Africa through other projects now being scaled-up in Amajuba in KwaZulu-Natal and Gert Sibanda in Mpumalanga using implementation science.
The grant will also support smaller pilot projects and capacity building of policy makers, health managers and service providers in ISDR to scale up integrated mental healthcare in Mozambique and Tanzania.
The funding will allow the Centre for Rural Health to grow its research agenda to engage in systems strengthening, human resource development and health and social justice research around non-communicable diseases with mental health being a key aspect.
The Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the College of Health Sciences, Professor Rob Slotow, congratulated Petersen on her achievement. ‘The College is extremely pleased that Professor Petersen has succeeded with this major award from the NIH. Mental Health is increasingly being prioritised, and building capacity and expertise both locally and in other African countries is key to addressing the mental health treatment gap. This project links well with other capacity building initiatives being funded by a range of key global funders in the College of Health Sciences and reinforces the increasing recognition that staff in the College are receiving as leaders in their fields. We wish Professor Petersen and her team every success with the project,’ said Slotow.
The Dean of the School of Nursing and Public Health Medicine, Professor Busi Ncama, said: ‘I congratulate Professor Inge Petersen for this award. As a School we are very proud of this achievement. Professor Petersen is a renowned scholar and an academic who has made a mark for herself in the area of mental healthcare. The World Health Organization (WHO) made a call for integration of mental health into primary health care services and this project responds directly to that call. It also speaks directly to UKZN’s “African Scholarship” concept as it seeks to build capacity and strengthen mental health integration into primary healthcare in South Africa and beyond its borders into Mozambique and Tanzania.’
Petersen was seconded to the School of Nursing and Public Health from the Discipline of Psychology at the School of Applied Human Sciences. Her research work in the field of public mental health has many synergies with current research in the School of Nursing and Public Health.
For the past 20 years, her work has focused on how best to integrate mental health into primary healthcare as a means to close the treatment gap for mental disorders in South Africa. To further this, Petersen works in collaboration with a number of multinational research consortiums involving low and middle income countries such as Uganda, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, India, and Nepal.