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Mental health research in Latin America and the Caribbean: devising mechanisms for capacity strengthening

Date: Poster sessions
Source: Forum 11
Authors: Carla Gallo, Associate Professor, Laboratorios de Investigación y Desarrollo, Facultad de Ciencias y Filosofía, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Peru
with Fabián Fiestas, Giovanni Poletti, Inés Bustamante and Guido Mazzotti


Low quality and limited access to mental health (MH) care in low- and middle- income countries (LMICs) are consequence of the scarcity of resources to perform research. This report aims to identify individual and institutional factors associated with MH research success and failure in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region, to use them as the basis for research capacity strengthening.

Our study is part of a larger initiative of the Global Forum for Health Research, directed to map MH actors and their research agendas in LMICs.

A questionnaire was sent to 792 researchers in 15 countries in the LAC region. The 216 respondents were classified according to their research success. Group 1 researchers (G1R) were those funded with more than US$ 5000 in the last year, and with at least 2 publications in international journals in the past 5 years (n=50). Group 2 researchers (G2R) were all those reporting less funding or publications (n=88). Fifty- nine researchers were excluded for having missing data in either of these parameters. The principal affiliation of both G1R and G2R were universities (66% and 50%, respectively); 48% of G1R were affiliated to research institutes; 62% of G2R were affiliated to hospitals or the private sector. Compared to G2R, G1R had a higher level of involvement in human resource training (76 vs. 47%), consultancies (58 vs. 36%), networking with colleagues (78 vs. 51%), more participation as scientific editors (86 vs. 57%) or reviewers (80 vs. 43%), more access to paid internet resources (66 vs. 33%) or specialized journals (64 vs. 43%), more access to support in epidemiology/biostatistics (82 vs. 67%), neurosciences/basic sciences (80 vs. 41%), and more graduate students (84 vs. 41%). G1R and G2R also differed in prioritizing the challenges they envisage for implementing research in the near future: for G1R the lack of trained human resources ranked as the main challenge, while for G2R the main challenge was the lack of a research culture in their institutions.

Our results identify public and private MH care institutions as the main focus for research capacity strengthening (at both the individual and the institutional level). This task could be achieved through an active interaction with universities and research institutes in the region that already have greater research strengths.