The First Annual Conference on Child Behavioral Health in Sub Saharan Africa has opened in Kampala to discuss issues of child mental health.
It is estimated that one in five children and adolescents suffer from mental disorders. In addition, millions of African youth face daily challenges, including grief due to loss of parents to AIDS, extreme poverty, conflict, displacement, illness, or physical and sexual victimization, all of which can contribute to poor behavioral health.
It is stated that in many African countries, the development and scale-up of evidence-based behavioral health services for children and youth need greater attention.
Policy makers, practitioners, researchers, and community members have come together in this conference to collaboratively begin develop and ultimately test theoretically informed, culturally appropriate, evidence-based and youth and family-focused service models.
Participants have been drawn from Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and the U.S.
The event will also launch the Global Behavioral Health Fellowship program for new investigators and Ph.D. candidates committed to behavioral health research in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Academic researchers have come from institutions including New York University, Columbia University, Oxford University, Makerere University, University of Nairobi, University of Ghana, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Cape Town, and University College London.
Dr. Fred Ssewamala, director Columbia University, International Center for Child Health and Asset Development said the conference would take place on annual basis for researchers to come together to share findings, develop leadership or partnerships and advocate for improved child behavioral health services in order to close the children's mental health research and service gaps in Sub Saharan Africa.
The conference was opened by the First Lady who is also the minister for education, Janet Museveni. She pledged to support the initiatives.
The First Lady and minister for education, Janet Museveni poses for a photo with some of the organizers of the First Annual Conference on Child Behavioral Health in Sub-Saharan Africa at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, July 12,2016. Right to left: Timothy Opobo from Child Fund, Dr. Edward Kirumira Makerere University, Simba Machingaidze director Child Fund, Joyce Wanican executive director Africhild Centre, Dr. Mary Mackay Dean and Professor Brown School of Social Work Washington University, Dr. Fred Ssewamala Director Columbia University International Centre for Child Health and Asset Development and Abel Mwebembezi executive director Reach the Youth Uganda.