The first phase of the research component will use a questionnaire to assess the current status of the COVID-19 MHPSS response in participating countries against international standards, as defined by the 14 ‘Globally Recommended Activities’ in the 2020 IASC Briefing note. In Phase 2, in-depth qualitative work with a smaller sample of country stakeholders will explore barriers and enablers in order to identify the most appropriate means of providing support to public mental health leads for COVID-19 and outbreak response more broadly.
Findings from this research will help inform the capacity-building and system-strengthening components of the project. These include building a consortium of Africa’s leading public health institutions to guide research and use results to develop a common approach to strengthening the continent’s public mental health capacity, with a focus on strengthening capacity of national mental health focal points. This will be achieved through development and delivery of a programme focussing on technical, advocacy and leadership skills for mental health aspects of outbreak response, using online learning platforms, peer-learning, and mentorship.
Through this project, a consortium of Africa’s leading public health institutions will be established in order to guide research and build a foundation for future work to increase visibility and investment into public mental health within key institutions in Africa, as well as within the international development sector.
Results will be rapidly disseminated through links of consortium members, IASC MHPSS Reference Group, WHO and other agencies engaged in national-level, regional and global response. Dissemination methods will include webinars and blogs supported by social media posts, a final report and academic publications. A final face-to-face event is planned at Africa CDC/Africa Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to present research findings, consolidate networks established, and to promote mental health system strengthening as part of the emergency response to COVID-19, and as a part of longer-term processes of emergency preparedness, Disaster Risk Reduction and resilience building.