By Sireesha Bobbili, Special Advisor / Project Coordinator, Office of Transformative Global Health, Social & Epidemiological Research, CAMH
CAMH is well underway on an exciting new initiative in rural Tanzania with the potential to influence the impact of psychosis, a condition that affects approximately 3.9% of the population.
To connect widely accessible traditional healers with biomedical professionals via a specialized mobile app. This will provide people affected by psychosis with services that are timely, accessible and comprehensive.
Over the past few years, I’ve been working with Dr. Pamela Kaduri, a psychiatrist at Muhimbili National Hospital in Tanzania, to develop “Cell Phones and Psychosis: A pilot study connecting traditional healers and biomedical staff in rural Tanzania”, a project that has recently received funding from Grand Challenges Canada. Check out the project proposal video here.
“This is the first study to use mobile devices to address psychosis from a holistic perspective” says Akwatu Khenti, director of CAMH’s Office of Transformative Global Health and my mentor for the project. “It will explore the potential for creating new avenues for shared understanding and shared care in a timely manner.”
Two Models of Care
Our initiatives at the Office of Transformative Global Health have exposed us to diverse perspectives when it comes to explaining mental illness.
In Tanzania, traditional and cultural explanations of health and illness dominate, attributing mental issues to spiritual and intuitive causes. In contrast, the biomedical model focuses on biological, psychological and social causes of mental illness.
When traditional methods fail to produce the results that the patient and their family members are looking for, biomedical treatment is sought as a last resort. By this time, psychotic disorders may reach chronic stages leading to severe long-term disability.
Dr. Kaduri has found treatment to be extremely difficult once conditions have worsened. “This is why the app is so critical – to facilitate early diagnosis and improve management for psychosis.”
Our app will connect the two vastly different, but equally important, treatment models. Both groups of practitioners will receive training regarding the biomedical and traditional views of disease causation.
In addition, they will be taught how to use the mobile app to screen patients, share results, facilitate referrals and create a collaborative plan of action. Both parties will learn to jointly develop priorities for treatment plans.
We look forward to sharing more about the impact that CAMH is having in mental health on a global scale.
Next up in the Tanzania blog series: Developing partnerships with biomedical professionals and traditional healers!