PTSD

Sankofa mHealth Innovation Brings PTSD Support to War-Impacted Communities

facilitator-app-iteration-liberia-sankofa-second-chance-africa.png

Monrovia. 3 May 2017 – Second Chance Africa and Code Innovation announce our partnership on the Sankofa project to create a mobile application of an innovative clinical curriculum that helps people recover from trauma in war-impacted communities.

The mHealth curriculum pioneered by Second Chance Africa will be used by the organization’s cohort of mental health facilitators, half of whom are graduates of the program. Since 2008, they have reached more than 7,000 war-impacted Africans on a shoestring, crowdfunded budget. Participants in one of their clinical outreach projects report a 65% reduction in the debilitating symptoms of trauma like intrusive memories, hyper-arousal, and avoidant behavior, a difference that allows them to return to a more stable life in their families and communities.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex trauma and extreme stress are common outcomes of war and debilitate a person’s ability to function in society. In West Africa, the recent Ebola outbreak worsened existing war-related PTSD, compounding long-lasting community mental health issues that remain unattended. In post-conflict areas, trauma often becomes a silent epidemic and while some people get better with time, many do not.

In some areas, rates of PTSD diagnosis are close to 100% based on the nature and severity of events, and trauma symptoms have been documented in refugee groups decades after traumatic exposure. PTSD may heighten the risk for poverty, aggravating the consequences of war and conflict.

“Approximately 17.6 million people are currently impacted by war and conflict across East, West and Central Africa,” says Second Chance Africa founder and Executive Director Jana V. Pinto. “Yet despite the clear need, trauma relief is not yet a humanitarian priority, as current efforts are expensive and there is no evidence base available to guide treatment choice. We urgently need more scientific research to develop best practices around trauma relief interventions in war-impacted communities.”

“While it may seem secondary to investments in maternal health or child survival, research has shown that communities with a high prevalence of trauma struggle to progress economically,” says Elie Calhoun, Director of Code Innovation. “Trauma becomes a piece of the poverty trap and needs to be addressed before war-impacted communities can make lasting social and economic progress.”

“The Sankofa mHealth app is designed as a tool for civilians and community health workers to lead local trauma relief groups independently and without prior training or experience,” says Calhoun “The 10-hour protocol directly addresses major PTSD symptoms without one-on-one psychotherapy or drug interventions. Digitizing this model on a free mobile app makes the approach accessible to health systems and organizations all over the world. It is a truly game-changing model.”

“Although feature phone handsets still significantly outnumber smart phones in Africa, we expect to see a gradual shift to smartphones as they become increasingly available and affordable. Because the Sankofa mobile app is designed to be used by one facilitator working with many groups over time, the program model leverages what is still a relatively rare technology to harness its impact.”

Field testing of the digital tool will begin in June in Northern Uganda with South Sudanese refugees fleeing current conflict, and in Monrovia, Liberia with a core team of Second Chance Africa facilitators who have been with the organization since its inception in the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana in 2008. As early recipients of the intervention, the facilitators are a testament to the transformative potential of the Second Chance Africa model and have dedicated themselves to ensuring that others in their country receive the same life-changing services.

The Sankofa digital tool will help them and other heroes in the battle against trauma to reach more people and help more people impacted by war regain their lives.

###

Sankofa is crowdfunding to cover its program costs: https://www.razoo.com/story/Sankofa2017

For more information about the Sankofa project, visit http://secondchanceafrica.org/sankofa

Second Chance Africa After six years delivering hands-on clinical services, Second Chance Africa’s team of scientists and health workers now focus on rigorous research and development of innovative, scalable and culturally-adapted intervention tools to advance trauma relief for African communities impacted by war. For more information, visit http://www.secondchanceafrica.org.

Code Innovation’s team of ICT4D experts specialize in helping high-impact development solutions go to scale. Our projects have been supported by UNICEF, the UK Department for International Development and major philanthropic foundations. For more information, visit http://www.codeinnovation.com.

For more information, contact:

Jana V. Pinto, Executive Director, Second Chance Africa, jana@secondchanceafrica.org

Elie Calhoun, Director of Operations, Code Innovation, elie@codeinnovation.com

mHealth for Trauma Intervention Post-Ebola

Our mHealth trauma project is taking one of the most impressive mental health innovations we've seen to scale, digitizing the approach pioneered by Second Chance Africa in post-conflict Monrovia and reaching freshly traumatized communities in the wake of the Ebola outbreak. Our one-pager outlining the project, for which we're actively seeking impact investors, is here. We're pushing the envelope in making low-cost trauma services easily available to low-resource populations where, in most cases, the national health system is still struggling to meet basic needs.

The thousands of Liberians who have graduated from Second Chance Africa’s 8-week program report a 60% decrease in their trauma symptoms -- things like panic attacks, hand tremors and hyperventilation -- and that they're able to return to normal lives thanks to the program. By taking the approach mobile for community health workers, we're helping to network mental health for trauma into the package of basic services.

Now that we're teaching at Singularity University's Graduate Studies Program for the summer, we're feeling challenged to take things a step further. At the moment, we're relying on impact investors for the seed funding that will enable us to create the mobile app for community health workers and test it with implementing partners in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Gaza and Rwanda.

Facilitators who run the app-based program will have, at the end of the 8 weeks, a cohesive and motivated group, ready to join the economy and begin to build their lives back. What if we could reach those people with entrepreneurial training, for those that want it, and vocational training that creates revenue streams to support the project's scale?

We're in the early stages of trying to bring in a social business component to our mHealth trauma app, . After all, while we need seed funding to get this started, we don't want to create a system that constantly needs external funding. Lucky for us, Singularity University is now partners with Yunus Social Business, so we've got some of the best support and thinking on this available.

If you'd like to learn more about how your impact investing could improve the lives of people affected by emergencies and disasters, including Ebola, get in touch (info@codeinnovation.com) to continue the conversation.

Community Mental Health

liberia-gang-outreach-program-second-chance-africa-PTSD-community-mental-health-app-trauma-extreme-stress-m-health.jpg

Community mental health program in Liberia by Second Chance Africa (www.codeinnovation.com) The Washington Post recently profiled Chris Blattman's research into the economic and security benefits of therapy for at-risk youth in Monrovia, Liberia in "Jobs and jail might not keep young men out of crime, but how about therapy?". The gatekeepers of the psychiatric industry are losing power and a much-needed variety of healing will quickly become accessible on a global scale.

It bodes well for individuals, families and communities everywhere that psycho-social services are starting to be democratized. When people assumed that therapy or counseling required one-on-one time with a highly trained specialist or a regular supply of expensive proprietary drugs, emotional support was effectively a luxury (and, indeed, it has been routinely satirized as such with bored and wealthy TV characters gobbling pills from their indulgent therapists).

Bold new approaches to therapy are delivering powerful results for incredibly low costs, indicating that psychosocial services may soon become available to the hundreds of millions of people struggling with the effects of trauma.

Our partners, Second Chance Africa, pioneered a group therapy approach in Monrovia for ex-combatants that ran over five years, eliminating symptoms of trauma in 60% of the people who went through the program. We’re currently looking for funding to help digitize the curriculum that made this possible and to create an open source mobile resource for Community Health Workers to facilitate group therapy sessions of this variety.

We’ve got a rigorous, clinical monitoring and evaluation protocol lined up that leverages the expertise of PHD candidate Jana Pinto, who studies at the Brain and Mind Research Institute at the Sydney Medical School, at the University of Sydney. And we’ll be testing the approach simultaneously with culturally diverse members of the refugee community in Sydney to gauge the effectiveness of our content and method for a wider audience.

If you’re interested to help make this happen, contact us at info@codeinnovation.com.