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Low-intensity psychosocial interventions have been effective in targeting perinatal depression, but relevant mechanisms of change remain unknown.
To examine three theoretically informed mediators of the Thinking Healthy Programme Peer-delivered (THPP), an evidence-based psychosocial intervention for perinatal depression, on symptom severity in two parallel, randomised controlled trials in Goa, India and Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
Participants included pregnant women aged ≥18 years with moderate to severe depression, as defined by a Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9) score ≥10, and were randomised to either THPP or enhanced usual care. We examine whether three prespecified variables (patient activation, social support and mother–child attachment) at 3 months post-childbirth mediated the effects of THPP interventions of perinatal depressive symptom severity (PHQ-9) at the primary end-point of 6 months post-childbirth. We first examined individual mediation within each trial (n = 280 in India and n = 570 in Pakistan), followed by a pooled analysis across both trials (N = 850).
In both site-specific and pooled analyses, patient activation and support at 3 months independently mediated the intervention effects on depressive symptom severity at 6 months, accounting for 23.6 and 18.2% of the total effect of THPP, respectively. The intervention had no effect on mother–child attachment scores, thus there was no evidence that this factor mediated the intervention effect.
The effects of the psychosocial intervention on depression outcomes in mothers were mediated by the same two factors in both contexts, suggesting that such interventions seeking to alleviate perinatal depression should target both social support and patient activation levels.
The Thinking Healthy Programme (THP) is an evidence-based psychological intervention endorsed by the World Health Organization, tailored for non-specialist health workers in low- and middle-income countries. However, training and supervision of large numbers of health workers is a major challenge for the scale-up of THP. We developed a ‘Technology-Assisted Cascaded Training and Supervision system’ (TACTS) for THP consisting of a training application and cascaded supervision delivered from a distance.
A single-blind, non-inferiority, randomized controlled trial was conducted in District Swat, a post-conflict area of North Pakistan. Eighty community health workers (called Lady Health Workers or LHWs) were randomly assigned to either TACTS or conventional face-to-face training and supervision by a specialist. Competence of LHWs in delivering THP post-training was assessed by independent observers rating a therapeutic session using a standardized measure, the ‘Enhancing Assessment of Common Therapeutic factors’ (ENACT), immediately post-training and after 3 months. ENACT uses a Likert scale to score an observed interaction on 18 dimensions, with a total score of 54, and a higher score indicating greater competence.
Results indicated no significant differences between health workers trained using TACTS and supervised from distance v. those trained and supervised by a specialist face-to-face (mean ENACT score M = 24.97, s.d. = 5.95 v. M = 27.27, s.d. = 5.60, p = 0.079, 95% CI 4.87–0.27) and at 3 months follow-up assessment (M = 44.48, s.d. = 3.97 v. M = 43.63, s.d. = 6.34, p = 0.53, CI −1.88 to 3.59).
TACTS can provide a promising tool for training and supervision of front-line workers in areas where there is a shortage of specialist trainers and supervisors.
There is a scarcity of specialist trainers and supervisors for psychosocial interventions in low- and middle-income countries. A cascaded model of training and supervision was developed to sustain delivery of an evidence-based peer-delivered intervention for perinatal depression (the Thinking Healthy Programme) in rural Pakistan. The study aimed to evaluate the model.
Mixed methods were employed as part of a randomised controlled trial of the intervention. Quantitative data consisted of the peers' competencies assessed during field training and over the implementation phase of the intervention, using a specially developed checklist. Qualitative data were collected from peers and their trainers through 11 focus groups during the second and third year of intervention rollout.
Following training, 43 peers out of 45 (95%) achieved at least a ‘satisfactory’ level of competency (scores of ⩾70% on the Quality and Competency Checklist). Of the cohort of 45 peers initially recruited 34 (75%) were retained over 3 years and showed sustained or improved competencies over time. Qualitatively, the key factors contributing to peers' competency were use of interactive training and supervision techniques, the trainer–peer relationship, and their cultural similarity. The partnership with community health workers and use of primary health care facilities for training and supervision gave credibility to the peers in the community.
The study demonstrates that lay-workers such as peers can be trained and supervised to deliver a psychological intervention using a cascaded model, thus addressing the barrier of scarcity of specialist trainers and supervisors.
Reducing the global treatment gap for mental disorders requires treatments that are economical, effective and culturally appropriate.
To describe a systematic approach to the development of a brief psychological treatment for patients with severe depression delivered by lay counsellors in primary healthcare.
The treatment was developed in three stages using a variety of methods: (a) identifying potential strategies; (b) developing a theoretical framework; and (c) evaluating the acceptability, feasibility and effectiveness of the psychological treatment.
The Healthy Activity Program (HAP) is delivered over 6–8 sessions and consists of behavioral activation as the core psychological framework with added emphasis on strategies such as problem-solving and activation of social networks. Key elements to improve acceptability and feasibility are also included. In an intention-to-treat analysis of a pilot randomised controlled trial (55 participants), the prevalence of depression (Beck Depression Inventory II ⩾19) after 2 months was lower in the HAP than the control arm (adjusted risk ratio = 0.55, 95% CI 0.32–0.94, P = 0.01).
Our systematic approach to the development of psychological treatments could be extended to other mental disorders. HAP is an acceptable and effective brief psychological treatment for severe depression delivered by lay counsellors in primary care.
Poverty may moderate the effect of treatment of depression in low-income countries.
To assess poverty and lack of empowerment as moderators of a cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)-based intervention for perinatal depression in rural Pakistan.
Using secondary analysis of data from a randomised controlled trial (trial registration: ISRCTN65316374) we identified predictors of depression at 1-year follow-up and moderators of the intervention (n=791).
Predictors of follow-up depression included household debt, the participant not being empowered to manage household finance and the interaction terms for these variables with the trial arm. Effect sizes for women with and without household debt were 0.80 and 0.55 respectively. The effect size for women in debt and not empowered financially was 0.94 compared with 0.50 for women with neither of these factors.
Our findings demonstrate the importance of household debt and lack of financial empowerment of women as important maintaining factors of depression in low-income countries and our locally developed intervention tackled these problems successfully.
There is now an increased awareness of the high rates of depression among women with young children in impoverished communities. Poor maternal mental health affects the home environment, family life, child care and parenting. This paper summarises some of the issues related to the determinants, consequences and management of maternal mental health during and after pregnancy in Pakistan, a low-income country.
To develop a child and adolescent mental health service in a low-income country. This was a collaborative effort involving governmental and non-governmental organisations in the UK and Pakistan, where a training clinic was established.
We assessed and treated 169 children and adolescents. A team of mental health professionals was trained, including one consultant psychiatrist; the consultant psychiatrist is now leading the clinic. Links were further developed with healthcare, social care and educational organisations, as well as efforts made to engage the public in relation to child and adolescent mental health.
Our development highlights a model of research collaboration and service development which may be sustainable in low-income settings. Such initiatives need support from a variety of organisations. There is a need to consider whether there should be a formal funding mechanism to support the Royal College of Psychiatrists Senior Volunteer Programme.
The ‘brain drain’, resulting from the recruitment by the UK of highly qualified mental health professionals from middle- and low-income countries, has been described as a serious problem effecting the service provision, training and research capacity of these countries (Doku & Mallett, 2003; Thara et al, 2004). Although this issue is important, the benefits of such migration are seldom highlighted. Professionals who migrate often invest in families and businesses in their home country and are a source of valuable foreign income. Many professionals undergo specialised training and gain experience not available in their home countries and then return to provide an enhanced level of service (Tareen, 2000). Such movement may also serve a catalytic purpose. An example of a sector that has gained enormously from the so-called brain drain is information technology in India, which is built largely around expatriates in the USA and their networks back home. The high profile of Indian information technology experts has encouraged a whole new generation to pursue excellence in this field.
There is an urgent need to pay attention to the mental health of children in developing
countries. Professionals confronted with this task face a number of challenges. Services have
to be planned in a rational way, keeping in mind the needs of local populations. These needs
will often exceed the available resources, and it will be necessary to set priorities. Feasible
and cost-effective models of service delivery then have to be developed to meet these needs.
This annotation provides a framework within which mental health needs of children can
be assessed, priorities established, and services organised. This is illustrated with examples
of relevant activities undertaken in low-income developing countries over the last two
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