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September 17, 2017



CGMH aims at reducing treatment gap for mental health



The launching ceremony for the Centre for Global Mental Health (CGMH) was held here at the CPC hall of Rawalpindi Medical University (RMU) at Holy Family Hospital on Saturday with the main objective of reducing the treatment gap for mental health in Pakistan.

Vice Chancellor of RMU Professor Dr. Muhammad Umar hosted the event along with Director of the CGMH Professor Fareed A. Minhas and Head of the Institute of Psychiatry at RMU Dr. Asad Nizami. The occasion was graced by Dr. Muhammad Assai Ardakani, the World Health Organization Representative to Pakistan, as chief guest. The faculty and staff of RMU, the residents and house officers from various specialties, psychologists, and medical students were in attendance.

The proceedings began with the recitation of the Holy Quran after which Dr. Asad Nizami delivered the welcoming speech on the topic “From Mental Health to Global Mental Health”.  He said the establishment of CGMH is the development of relationships between WHO, Human Development Research Foundation and RMU. The Institute of Psychiatry has a central role in these institutional relationships, he said.

He explained to the audience the evolution of the institute from a department in 1973 to becoming WHO Collaborating Center and contributing in clinical services, research, community mental health, policy advice, and liaison with national and international institutions for the cause of mental health.

As a WHO Collaborating Center, the Institute plays its part by developing models of mental health care for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation in accordance with indigenous needs, he said. We can not remain solitary and need to further refine these activities and enhance their scope from national to global, he said.

Professor Fareed Minhas was then requested to address the audience and share the vision for the CGMH. He began his address by appreciating the efforts of the leadership of RMU, especially Professor Umar in bringing his brainchild to fruition. RMU, he declared, aspires to be a research-intensive university; it would be home to indigenous models of research and education leading to the development of evidence based services. Towards this end, the RMU looks to develop public-private partnerships with academia, policy-think tanks, non-government organizations and global experts, he said.

This would lead to rigorous scientific study of health care delivery and bridge the gap between what we know and what we don't and take it to the level of implementation. This would lead to development universal health coverage, he said.

To achieve this vision, RMU requires centers that overlook two primary responsibilities; capacity building for public health research and policy and programme implementation. These would span across specialties and the CGMH will be a prototype in this direction, explained Professor Minhas.

Low and middle income countries are home to over 80 per cent of the global population, but command less than 20 per cent of the share of the mental health resources. The consequent ‘treatment gap’ is in itself a contravention of basic human rights, he lamented.

He spoke about his time as Head of the Institute of Psychiatry precluded for him to give the necessary time to research that it deserved. Now that Dr. Asad is at the helm of the clinical affairs of the Institute of Psychiatry, the CGMH will serve as the platform for me to compensate for this research deficiency, said Professor Minhas.  He added the CGMH will serve in liaison with the central government with regards to policy, with HDRF in the area of research, with RMU in the context of education, and with the Institute of Psychiatry, WHO Collaborating Center, for service delivery.

The CGMH envisions to reducing the treatment gap for mental health in Pakistan and low resource settings globally by training next generation of health practitioners in public health approaches to mental health, he said. He alluded to the previous programmes carried out under his leadership including that South Asian Hub for Advocacy, Research & Education on Mental Health — SHARE, School Mental Health Programme, Thinking Healthy Programme, Problem Management Plus, etc.  Professor Minhas then showed the various products of these programmes in the form of manuals that can be used as the course outline for university courses. He enlisted the degree programmes that CGMH can host under the auspices of RMU including PhD in public health, Masters in Clinical Research, 1-year diploma in public health, diploma in mental health for general physician and family physicians. In addition he advised the establishment of MD in Adult Psychiatry and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

He spoke about utilizing health applications of technology to disseminate programmes and sessions online for a diverse audience.  He further stress the importance of economic sustainability and said that generating own resources via the courses we offer and having multinational companies sponsor the courses for our physicians, would greatly facilitate the institutional aims.

Professor Minhas requested the RMU VC and Dr. Assai to accord accreditation to the degrees and trainings at the center and facilitating the national and international partnerships and collaborations. He concluded with a request to the VC for the provision of support in respect to faculty, physical space, financial and administrative support.

Professor Umar thanked the worthy participants for their attendance particularly the chief guest for his presence. Talking of RMU, he said it would be a research oriented university having an international vision. He requested the worthy representative of WHO to extend his support and guidance in order for RMU to achieve its international aspirations. He promised his full support to the workings of the CGMH.

Dr. Muhammad Assai was then requested to share his thoughts. He ratified Professor Minhas’ idea for diploma courses in order to bridge the treatment gap. At the current rate reaching the goal of 9000 psychiatrists for Pakistani population being achieved is unachievable, but diploma courses can help bridge the gap, he said. In the end he extended his support to RMU and CGMH saying that the WHO is looking to play its role in collaborating with the university in achieving tangible result.