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Dr Vikram Patel bags John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health award

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Dr Patel receives the award for his research career raising the global profile of mental health problems

The Gairdner Foundation announced the 2019 Canada Gairdner Award laureates, recognising Goa- and Boston-based Dr Vikram Patel for his research career raising the global profile of mental health problems. Dr Patel has been awarded the 2019 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award for his world-leading research in global mental health, generating knowledge on the burden and determinants of mental health problems in low-and middle-income countries and pioneering approaches for the prevention and treatment of mental health in low-resource settings.

Each year seven Canada Gairdner Awards are presented to honour the world’s most significant biomedical and global health researchers. The John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award recognises a contribution to health in the developing world. Laureates receive a $100,000 cash honorarium and will be formally presented with their awards on October 24, 2019 at the annual Canada Gairdner Awards Gala in Toronto. “This prize is a recognition of the tremendous effort of innovators in low resource settings to transform our understanding of mental health problems and to innovate ways in which we can address these problems in contexts where there are very few resources,” said Dr Patel.

Dr Patel is the Pershing Square Professor of Global Health and Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Professor, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health; Honorary Professor of Global Mental Health, Centre for Global Mental Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Adjunct Professor, Centre for Chronic Conditions and Injuries, Public Health Foundation of India, New Delhi; Co-founder, Sangath, India Dr Patel has dedicated his research career to raising the global profile of mental health problems through: epidemiological research demonstrating the burden of mental disorders in low- and middle income countries, their strong association with poverty and with other public health priorities, such as HIV and child growth and development; and intervention research in which he has applied a systematic approach to the design, delivery and evaluation of contextually appropriate psychosocial interventions provided by lay and community health providers. This has included the primary care treatment of depression, anxiety and alcohol use disorders, the community-based care of people with schizophrenia and autism, and the prevention and treatment of adolescent mental health problems through schoolbased interventions.

Much of his work has been done in partnership with Sangath, an Indian NGO he co-founded in 1996. Sangath is a community-based research organisation which won the MacArthur Foundation International Prize for Creative and Effective Institutions in 2008 and the WHO Public Health Champion of India prize in 2016. Sangath is a pioneer in training lay people to deliver healthcare treatments and interventions to their communities and works closely with Dr Patel’s academic institutions. Dr Patel also co-founded the Centre for Global Mental Health and the Mental Health Innovations Network (at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) and the Movement for Global Mental Health, the largest global network of individuals and organisations advocating for promoting services and human rights for people living with mental health problems. In 2018, he cofounded the [email protected] initiative which is developing a suite of innovative, interdisciplinary, initiatives aimed at implementing and generating knowledge to transform mental health globally.

The Impact:

As recently as 10 years ago, it was difficult to even imagine mental health problems being considered as a global health priority; today, the situation is radically different with considerable attention from a diverse range of global health stakeholders, backed by resources, being focused on mental health, particularly in disadvantaged and low resourced contexts. Patel’s work and leadership has played a critical role in making this happen. His research has challenged many of the myths surrounding mental health problems in the global context, demonstrating that these problems are universal forms of human suffering; that there is a vicious cycle of deprivation and poor mental health; that mental health problems profoundly affect the physical health and well-being of affected persons; that psychosocial interventions can be effectively delivered by widely available and affordable community based providers; and that the human rights of people with mental health problems to access quality care and to a life with dignity are global concerns. This work and his leadership has made significant contributions to the establishment of the field of global mental health, with priority research, teaching, policy and practice agendas, for example the Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health research initiative, the World Health Organisation’s flagship mhGAP programme on mental health and India’s first national mental health policy.

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