Dr Etheldreda Nakimuli-Mpungu, a psychiatrist working with Butabika Hospital, has received the Rising Stars in Global Health Award for her project on the care and treatment of depression in people living with HIV/Aids.
Dr Mpungu’s project will focus on developing and testing culturally-sensitive and cost-effective group support psychotherapy model to be used as a component of integrated multidisciplinary care of HIV infected individuals to treat and prevent depression.
Grand Challenges Canada, an organisation funded by the Canadian government offered the $100,000 (about Shs250m) award to several young innovators in low and middle income countries with bold ideas to address global health conditions.
The money will support 12-18 months projects in which the recipients will provide proof- of- concept for their ideas.
Successful groups will be eligible to receive up to $ 1,000,000 (about Shs250b) to boost their projects. Dr Mpungu’s idea stems from her experience in the treatment, management and care of HIV patients with mental health problems at Butabika Hospital since 2001, as well as her experience of monitoring and evaluating clinical outcomes of patients treated for depression in the Peter C Alderman Foundation (PCAF) trauma clinics in northern Uganda.
Data from this programme indicates that patients with depression receiving medications and participating in group support counselling, have greater improvement in functional status than those receiving medications and individual counselling.
That observation inspired Dr Mpungu’s idea of developing a structured group support psychotherapy model tailored to cultural and social needs of the community.
Dr Mpungu said she believes that community participation in the development of the group therapy model would create a sense of ownership and the members would spread word about the intervention.
She added that when participants understand that depression is an illness just like any other, it will lessen stigma and consequently enhance case finding, leading to more uptake of the intervention.
The psychiatrist, who also works with the Department of Psychiatry, Makerere University, said once the group support psychotherapy model is structured, it will be translated into the local language and rolled out.
The project is related to on-going activities in the PCAF trauma clinics in the government-run hospitals as well as PCAF outreach sites in various low level health centres in villages in Gulu and Kitgum districts.
The post-conflict setting of these northern Uganda areas, where depression and HIV infection are high, points to the need for integrated care for the two disease conditions.
This is the first time Grand Challenges Canada has funded stars outside of Canada in low and middle income countries. The funders believe that local innovators understand global health challenges and are well-equipped to solve them.
Therefore, supporting local innovators can have a significant impact on global health conditions by improving and saving lives.