The Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Partnership (SHARP) for Mental Health Capacity Building: a program protocol for building implementation science and mental health research and policymaking capacity in Malawi and Tanzania

Int J Ment Health Syst. 2019 Nov 9;13:70. doi: 10.1186/s13033-019-0327-2. eCollection 2019.


Background: Mental health (MH) disorders in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) account for a large proportion of disease burden. While efficacious treatments exist, only 10% of those in need are able to access care. This treatment gap is fueled by structural determinants including inadequate resource allocation and prioritization, both rooted in a lack of research and policy capacity. The goal of the Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Partnership for Mental Health Capacity Building (SHARP), based in Malawi and Tanzania, is to address those research and policy-based determinants.

Methods: SHARP aims to (1) build implementation science skills and expertise among Malawian and Tanzanian researchers in the area of mental health; (2) ensure that Malawian and Tanzanian policymakers and providers have the knowledge and skills to effectively apply research findings on evidence-based mental health programs to routine practice; and (3) strengthen dialogue between researchers, policymakers, and providers leading to efficient and sustainable scale-up of mental health services in Malawi and Tanzania. SHARP comprises five capacity building components: introductory and advanced short courses, a multifaceted dialogue, on-the-job training, pilot grants, and "mentor the mentors" courses.

Discussion: Program evaluation includes measuring dose delivered and received, participant knowledge and satisfaction, as well as academic output (e.g., conference posters or presentations, manuscript submissions, grant applications). The SHARP Capacity Building Program aims to make a meaningful contribution in pursuit of a model of capacity building that could be replicated in other LMICs. If impactful, the SHARP Capacity Building Program could increase the knowledge, skills, and mentorship capabilities of researchers, policymakers, and providers regarding effective scale up of evidence-based MH treatment.

Keywords: Capacity building; Global health; Malawi; Mental health; Protocol; Tanzania.