“I gained knowledge concerning my own recovery. Also helped me to understand that there are other things you can do instead of only medication. Shouldn’t just give medicine, should really look for the problem and try to help the problem. You should look for the problem for the mental illness.”
– (Semi structured interviews – Brain Gain Project, Kampala, 2013)
Since forming in 2011, The Uganda Diaspora Health Foundation (UDHF) has already made some substantial developments in positively breaking down health inequalities between Uganda and the UK. One example of this is the project Brain Gain.
Brain Gain is a project that incorporates the thinking, values and knowledge of UK (East London NHS Trust) and Ugandan mental healthcare professionals (Butabika Hospital, Kampala), Ugandan mental health service users, local community leaders and global policy makers.
At the core of this exchange are the diasporas; groups who have a unique potential to transform developing countries by drawing on their connections, linguistic skills and cultural competence by serving as volunteers worldwide.
Importantly here, the training has been multi-directional; Butabika Hospital has developed a richly collaborative relationship with East London NHS where the unfolding learning is reciprocal between these locations, broadening the horizons for mental health provision in both settings. Local community knowledge in Uganda plays a valuable role in the shaping of mental health services through the adaptation and implementation of ideas forged between East London NHS and Butabika Hospital. Policy makers are able to take a broader snapshot of this fascinating interchange and enable growth.
Brain Gain supports the community recovery team in Kampala to train service users as peer support workers (PSW) to assist psychiatric clinicians to develop a way to provide mental health services to the local populations together. PSWs are able to take a meaningful role in their communities, which not only aids their own recovery, but enables support for those who have been discharged to less accessible locations. Knowledge about how to identify the initial stages of mental health problems is disseminated through the local communities.
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Among other things, this process works to:
- Break down stigma
- Discuss the role of culture and religion in mental health
- Aid employment
- Educate about medication
- Involve family and key community members
- Reduce violence
- Improve physical health and
- Allow the communities to own and promote the prevention of relapse in their own societies, in their own ways
The UDHF play the fundamental role in creating a channel of exchange that enables reciprocal education to take place between Uganda and the UK in a way that re-shapes and re-balances our historical inequalities; creating a true opportunity to learn from the community spirit of the Ugandan people and move towards a more sophisticated understanding of mental healthcare.
By Moses Mulimira: Co-chairperson, Uganda Diaspora Health Foundation – East London NHS Foundation Trust, and
Amy Stoddard: Strategic Development Lead, Uganda Diaspora Health Foundation
To find out more about diaspora-driven development, visit: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/diaspora-driven-development