Originally Published by Johnson & Johnson.
Johnson & Johnson Services Inc. (Johnson & Johnson) announced a comprehensive partnership with the Government of Rwanda to significantly strengthen and expand access to quality mental health care in the country. The partnership, which is intended to be a demonstration pilot for sub-Saharan Africa, aims to show that it is possible to apply an affordable, scalable quality care model for the treatment of severe mental illness, specifically schizophrenia, in low- and middle-income countries, where the vast majority of patients lack access to treatment and care.
As part of this effort, Johnson & Johnson will also work with Partners In Health on delivering mental health care services within communities in two new districts in Rwanda, bringing critically needed services into the neighborhoods where patients live. To further support the development and expansion of mental health services in Rwanda, and more broadly in sub-Saharan Africa, Johnson & Johnson is collaborating with the Centre for Global Mental Health, co-hosted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and King’s College London, to develop a new generation of mental healthcare professionals on the front lines of care.
“Mental illness is a growing global challenge that is having a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities, especially in low-resource settings, and urgently needs our attention,” said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Vice-Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson speaking at the launch of the program in Kigali today. “With over 60 years of experience supporting those impacted by mental illness we are committed to expanding access to transformational mental health innovations to positively impact people’s lives. By gathering critical data through this pilot we aspire to change the trajectory of mental health prevention, treatment and care in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.”
These collaborations, which are the first major mental health initiative of the Johnson & Johnson Global Public Health (GPH) organization, plan to address some of the most significant challenges in mental health care, including the lack of consistent access to affordable, quality medicines. To that end, Johnson & Johnson is working with the Government of Rwanda and other local partners to create a platform for the introduction of long-acting injectables, which have been shown in clinical studies to remain effective longer than other antipsychotics and delay relapse in patients with schizophrenia. In addition, Johnson & Johnson is supporting research with Rwanda’s Ministry of Health to understand the health, economic and social impacts of long-acting injectables in resource-limited settings to further support the case for using transformational innovation to address severe mental illness.
To address current gaps in knowledge and understanding of mental illness in low-resource settings, Johnson & Johnson is also supporting a government-initiated national mental health survey to determine the prevalence and burden of mental health disorders in Rwanda. The results of the survey are expected to be available in early 2019.
“The Ministry of Health believes this partnership comes in due time as addressing severe mental illness is one of our priority areas in order to ensure equitable access to mental health services for those in need,” said Honorable Minister of Health for Rwanda, Dr. Diane Gashumba.
Strengthening Community-based Mental Health Services with Partners In Health
Accessing mental health services within local communities is known to have a positive impact on patient outcomes and overall well-being. To further enable the decentralization of mental health services by strengthening the skills of frontline health workers, Johnson & Johnson Global Public Health, in partnership with Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact, intends to provide a three-year grant to Partners In Health (PIH). The grant would aim to scale up PIH’s innovative Mentoring and Enhanced Supervision at Health Centers (MESH) model for mental health in two additional districts in Rwanda. The MESH model integrates mental health care into a community-based health care setting, increasing the number of trained mental health care workers and facilitating patient access to quality care within the communities where they live.
“It is wonderful to have Johnson & Johnson join our partnership with the Ministry of Health (MOH) of Rwanda to improve access to high quality mental health care to the people of Rwanda. J&J’s investment will enable PIH to leverage the progress that we and the MOH have made over the last six years to improve screening and treatment of psychiatric disorders in one very remote rural district,” said Gary L. Gottlieb, MD, MBA, Chief Executive Officer, Partners In Health. “Expanding this work to two other districts will rapidly improve the lives of countless people, allowing us to serve our precious mission of providing a preferential option in health care for the poor.”
Enabling a New Generation of Mental Healthcare Professionals with the Centre for Global Mental Health
With fewer than one mental healthcare professional per 100,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa Johnson & Johnson is further committed to building the expertise needed to strengthen mental health services in Rwanda and across sub-Saharan Africa. To that end, Johnson & Johnson Global Public Health is supporting efforts to train a new generation of mental healthcare professionals through a new Global Mental Health Scholarship Fund. Through this program, Johnson & Johnson will be providing scholarships to 18 students from low- and middle-income countries, including Rwanda, to attend a one-year program at the Centre for Global Mental Health which is co-hosted by London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s and King’s College London. The fund, which was originally launched in 2013, allows students to receive training in global mental health research, policy and practice with a focus on low- and middle-income settings. This allows them to build public health expertise they can then bring back to their home countries to strengthen mental health care services.
“We are delighted to be partnering with Johnson & Johnson on this important new scholarship scheme. Mental health is an often neglected area of health that represents the leading cause of disability worldwide. Stigma is a major issue, often stopping people accessing treatment but a wider problem exists. In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa there is no, or only a very limited, mental health service to see,” said Professor Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “After receiving the highest standard of training, this new wave of mental health professionals will return home with the skills and knowledge that could make a real difference to the lives of people with mental health problems.”