Shamiso Jombo, Dr. Sekai Nhiwatiwa, Dr. Francis Cowan
Department of Psychiatry
University of Zimbabwe, College of Health Sciences
The IMHERZ (Improving Mental Health Education and Research Capacity in Zimbabwe) program is a linked award to the MEPI programmatic award NECTAR (Novel Education Clinical Trainees and Researchers) program at the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences (UZ-CHS), with partners at the University of Cape Town, University College London, the Institute of Psychiatry (London), University of Bristol and Harvard University.
In Africa, mental, neurological and substance disorders have become the second biggest cause of disease burden and their relative importance will grow as demographic transition proceeds . There is increasing evidence, that improving mental health improves quality of life and reduces disability and also reduces poverty and social exclusion and improves physical health. At the time the linked award was made the UZ Department of Psychiatry had the highest vacancy rate within the College of Health Sciences making it increasingly difficult to deliver mental health education and conduct locally relevant mental health research. Of note, there are currently no child, forensic or community psychiatry services available through the public sector within Zimbabwe.
This award has been transformative. A number of new faculty members have joined the Department. The number of post graduate students in training has risen from 3 to 9 and progress has been made in terms of developing a Departmental Strategic Plan, modernising the undergraduate curriculum and developing specific training for post graduates. Several proposals for community-based intervention research have been submitted through the Department in conjunction with partner organisations. A series of ‘Psychiatry master classes’ are planned that will be used both for training of students and staff as well as to help plan sub-specialty psychiatric services and with CDC and SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), IMHERZ is supporting the Directorate of Mental Health at the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to develop a National Mental Health Strategic Plan.
Other achievements include the development and piloting of an inpatient case register , establishment of two teaching resource centres, and establishment of the IMHERZ mentored scholars program which will be implemented in partnership with the University of Cape Town and Institute of Psychiatry in London.