Project Lead(s): Byamah Mutamba
Nodding syndrome (NS), a neuropsychiatric syndrome, continues to affect thousands of children in post-conflict northern Uganda and other post conflict-settings in Africa, such as South Sudan.
No family mental health intervention has been described for the families of NS children who bear the high burden of looking after the affected children.
The project tested a family-based group interpersonal psychotherapy intervention (IPT-F) with families of children with NS.
A study was designed to investigate the effectiveness of IPT-F for caregivers of patients with Nodding Syndrome (NS) on improving the mental health of both the caregivers and patients, compared to the standard care as provided to patients in the national NS response plan.
A qualitative study using in-depth interviews and focus group discussions among 54 caregivers of children with NS preceded a quasi-experimental design to test the intervention with 145 caregivers in Pader district, northern Uganda.
The IPT-F intervention involved 1.5-hour group sessions, held weekly over a period of 12 weeks. These sessions were facilitated by 11 trained, lay village health team members who were supervised by trained health workers from the local health facility.
The primary outcome measure of the study was improved mental health status in the caregivers and those receiving IPT-F showed a decrease in the incidence of depression after the six-month follow-up, compared to those receiving standard care only.
In those receiving IPT-F, the study also documented a significant decrease in the proportion of caregivers with high levels of psychological distress, risk of suicide and stigma. There was an increase in the number of caregivers with improved levels of functioning and social support, in the number of NS-affected children with improved mental health and in the number of dyads with improved child-parent relationships.
The project team plans to apply for Phase II funding of the study from Grand Challenges Canada, which will aim at scaling the IPT-F intervention to other areas of Pader District, Northern Uganda. Phase II will provide the IPT-F intervention to families affected by NS, learning disability and epilepsy (considering to significant overlap in burden and presentation between these three conditions).
Knowledge from the project was widely disseminated at meetings and conferences.