Mental health app launched

2020-04-15 06:01

The University of the Free State (UFS) has extended its role to improving access for children and adolescents to mental-health services and appropriate care in South Africa and Zambia. This followed the implementation of the MEGA mobile application in primary healthcare initiative.

The MEGA project is a three-year project that started in October 2017 and is a European Union-funded project to build capacity by implementing the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) mobile intervention in Southern African Democratic Countries (SADC).

According to Ronelle Jansen, ma­nager of the UFS team, the MEGA consortium consists of an interprofessional team including registered professional nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, IT specialists, a sociologist, researchers, and administrative specialists in project funding.

She says the project involves primary healthcare professionals installing an app either on their phone or on a device.

“The app then automatically gene­rates a patient ID when the healthcare professional starts the screening process. For screening, multiple-choice questions or closed questions are used with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. But some sections allow the primary healthcare professional to manually insert additional information if necessary. The mental-health screening modules assess the following conditions: depression, anxiety, substance use, suicide and self-harm, trauma, and PTSD,” Jansen explains.

“The healthcare worker can ask for the screening results, and possible diagnoses will appear. The primary healthcare professional must save and export data to a secure server,” Jansen adds. She says the UFS team in the School of Nursing formed part of each work package and the deliverables set out in all nine work packages.

According to Jansen, they were the first university team to implement deliverables and were used as an example during feedback discussions.

“There is a high rate of mental-health disorders among adolescents, but limited access to mental healthcare. There is also a lack of know­ledge about mental healthcare among workers in public healthcare settings. The MEGA project hopes to improve the delivery of mental healthcare to adolescents by supporting and educating primary healthcare professionals through a mobile application. Also, by disseminating the results and outcomes to the National Departments of Health in both SA and Zambia,” says Jansen, who is currently studying towards her PhD.

The project is now busy with its sixth work package (WP), which involves the implementation and evaluation of the app after the primary healthcare professionals have received training on the content and use of the app.

The UFS is reportedly the first to start implementing the app in seven clinics and with eight nurses.

Partner institutions involved include the Turku University of Applied Science in Finland, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany, Riga Technical University in Latvia, Stellenbosch University, University of Cape Town, University of Pretoria, University of Zambia and the Lusaka Apex Medical University in Zambia.

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