Policy Report Details Ways to Address Child Mental Health in Uganda

Policy; Public Health; Research; Social Work

At the request of the Parliament of Uganda, a three-part policy report detailing evidence-based policies that would successfully address child and adolescent mental health in the country was issued by the Brown School’s ICHAD (International Center for Child Health and Development), the SMART Africa Center (Strengthening Mental Health and Research Training) and the Clark-Fox Policy Institute, in partnership with ChildFund Uganda.

“In Uganda, over half of the population is under the age of 18. Therefore, it is critical that mental health legislation include specific provisions for children and adolescents,” said Fred Ssewamala, founding director ICHAD, co-director of the SMART Africa Center, and William E. Gordon Distinguished Professor.

In the report, three key areas for intervention were identified: prevention and early intervention, workforce training, and asset-based economic development aimed at addressing poverty.

Gary Parker, director of the Clark-Fox Policy Institute and associate dean for external affairs, stated: “Using the most recent empirical research findings, this report provides policymakers and legislators a roadmap guiding future laws and regulations that can improve the health and well-being of Uganda’s children.”

Recently, Ssewamala held meetings in Uganda with Speaker of Parliament, the Right Honorable Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga; and with Dr. Michael Bukenya, chairperson of the health committee of Parliament. They discussed important research findings surrounding the mental health needs of children and adolescents, and the recommendations of this report, specifically how the reduction of childhood poverty can contribute to improved health outcomes over a lifetime.

“Despite the economic progress in Uganda in the past decade, many families and children in the country remain economically insecure,” Ssewamala said. “Financial stress experienced by economically insecure families and low-resource communities compromises the support available to children, putting them at increased risk of experimenting with unhealthy behaviors, and exposing them to poor mental health functioning.“

“Children and youth in Uganda need care, support and protection through well-designed government policies that address their particular needs,” said Mary M. McKay, Neidorff Family and Centene Corporation Dean of the Brown School, and co-director of the SMART Africa Center. “This policy report outlines those needs and a roadmap for how to make a long-term impact.”