Brain drain to Brain Gain

Brain drain to Brain Gain
4 August, 2014

Working with UK medical diaspora groups

Moses Mulimira and Amy Stoddard, Uganda Diaspora Health Foundation

Moses Mulimira and Amy Stoddard, Uganda Diaspora Health Foundation, describe how their latest project has been improving mental healthcare in both Uganda and the UK.

Moses Mulimira, co-chair of the Uganda Diaspora Health Foundation, and Amy Stoddard, its Strategic Development Lead, describe how their latest project has been improving mental healthcare in both Uganda and the UK.

Air travel and the Internet have made the world a much smaller place. But even though it’s now far easier to connect with other countries, international collaborations and research for development can still struggle from differences in language and culture.

Key to helping open the door to successful international partnerships are diaspora networks – people or organisations with connections to their country of origin – that can help translate the message of “let’s work together” and combine the knowledge and expertise of both countries.

Since forming in 2011, the Uganda Diaspora Health Foundation (UDHF) has made substantial progress in positively breaking down health inequalities between Uganda and the UK by helping to link the East London NHS Trust with the Butabika Hospital in Kampala. One example of UDHF’s work is Brain Gain – its project on mental health.

Brain Gain incorporates the thinking, values and knowledge of UK  and Ugandan mental healthcare professionals, Ugandan mental health service users, local community leaders and global policy makers to help raise awareness and improve services for mental health in both countries.

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. 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.

Brain Gain supports the community recovery team in Kampala in training service users as peer support workers (PSWs) who can then assist psychiatric clinicians to provide mental health services to the local populations. This allows PSWs to play a meaningful role in helping their communities, which not only aids their own recovery, but creates a system of support and an understanding of mental health problems (including identifying the initial stages) in local communities.

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
  • Allow the communities to own and promote the prevention of relapse in their own societies, in their own ways

The UDHF plays a fundamental role in creating a channel of exchange between two distant medical institutions, in a way that sees both the UK and Uganda benefit. It is through this process that UDHF works to re-shape and re-balance our two nations’ 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.

For the original blog see the British Medical Association website.

To find out more about diaspora-driven development, visit the Guardian website.

Image credit: Pawel Czerwinski via Unsplash

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