SMART-Africa Research Project

SMART Africa (Strengthening Mental Health and Research Training in Africa) Project is a transdisciplinary collaborative partnership funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to engage stakeholders from academia, government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and local communities in Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa in addressing child mental health burden, evidence-based intervention implementation, scale-up, service gaps.

In partnership with BasicNeeds-Ghana, the SMART Africa-Ghana team will work with 180 pupils (boys and girls aged 8-13 years) and their families and guardians from the Tamale and Sagnarigu, both in the Northern Region. Like the SMART Africa-Uganda study, participants in Ghana will receive an adapted version of the evidence-based Multiple Family Group Intervention (known as 4Rs and 2Ss).

This intervention has been implemented in the U.S. among families with children from resource-limited settings experiencing behavioural health challenges, including Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder. The 4Rs and 2Ss have been revised and adapted to the Ghana context in collaboration with community stakeholders and has been renamed “Dang-Malgu” (“Family togetherness”).

This manualized intervention includes 16 sessions that cover topics including but not limited to: building on family strengths, respectful communication, behavioural health knowledge, and stigma, dealing with stress at home and problem-solving strategies to address broken rules.

Implementation Research Study

The implementation research studies are designed to compare two different approaches for delivering a multiple family group intervention for children experiencing disruptive behaviour challenges. The two different delivery approaches are multiple family group facilitation by family peers versus community outreach health workers. The aims of the studies are:

  • to examine the uptake, implementation, and fidelity of the two delivery approaches;
  • to identify multi-level factors that influence uptake, implementation, and integration of the multi-family group intervention and youth outcomes;
  • to identify community level supports, including trust, encouragement of participation; and
  • to assess short- and longer-term child outcomes.

Research Capacity Building

The capacity-building activities involve two phases. Phase I activities are similar across countries; they build a foundation for the collaborative approach to implementation research. During Phase I, webinars and workshops aim to build the knowledge and skills of policymakers and NGO staff to strengthen partnerships and apply science to policy and program development. Workshops will also enhance researchers’ knowledge and skills in applying current science frameworks to conducting implementation research. Phase II focuses on technical support for the individual needs of each country and each research study. In Phase II, the project collaborates with in-country investigators to mentor new and early stage investigators and to engage senior investigators in supporting high quality implementation research projects by these new and early stage investigators to enhance the public health value of the collaborative work.

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