Credit: Timothée Andonian / Iméra
Deploying a scalable program for stress reduction and mental health promotion for community health workers in rural India
Summary of the research project
Dr. John Neslund’s research project at Iméra, the Institute for Advanced Study of Aix-Marseille University aims to develop and evaluate the acceptability and preliminary effectiveness of a stress reduction program tailored to the needs, context, and local culture, and to explore whether reducing stress among Community Health Workers (CHWs) may impact their wellbeing, the quality of care they deliver, and resulting economic impacts for the health system.
Empowering the Backbone: Addressing Mental Health of Community Health Workers in Low-Resource Settings
Community health workers (CHWs) play a vital role in providing essential healthcare services in remote and underserved areas, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) like India. However, their mental health and well-being have been largely overlooked in global health literature, despite facing high levels of stress and adversity. This research project, conducted at Iméra, aims to develop and deploy a scalable digital stress reduction and mental health promotion program for CHWs in rural India. By empowering these frontline health workers, the study seeks to improve the quality of care they deliver and support the successful implementation of mental health services in low-resource settings.
From Stress to Success: Digitizing Mental Health Support for Community Health Workers in India
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed immense pressure on community health workers (CHWs) in low-resource settings, exacerbating their already challenging work demands and stress levels. In response to this pressing issue, Dr. John Naslund’s research project at Iméra aims to develop a digital stress reduction program for CHWs in rural India. Through a collaborative approach, the program will be tailored to meet the specific needs, context, and culture of the CHWs while integrating evidence-based strategies. By evaluating the program’s acceptability and effectiveness, the study seeks to not only improve the mental well-being of CHWs but also explore its potential impact on the delivery of routine care services and the broader health system.
Dr. Naslund is Instructor of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He holds expertise in psychiatric epidemiology, implementation science, social disparities research and digital mental health. Dr. Naslund’s scholarship seeks to advance efforts aimed at improving the lives of individuals facing the challenges of mental illness worldwide. Specifically, his work explores the intersection between emerging digital technologies, such as smartphones, mobile applications and social media, and implementation science, towards improving the reach, quality and effectiveness of mental health services and addressing gaps in equity and sustainability. Dr. Naslund has led numerous projects primarily focused in low-resource settings, with emphasis in India and the United States, and covering the following three major thematic areas: 1) digital technology for training and building capacity of non-specialist health workers for task-sharing and scaling up evidence-based mental health care; 2) digital technology for health promotion and addressing excess mortality in persons living with severe mental disorders; and 3) digital technology as a platform for peer-to-peer support, challenging stigma, and empowering individuals living with mental illness and their families. Dr. Naslund’s work is supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, the Harvard Global Health Institute Burke Fellowship, Grand Challenges Canada, and the Wellcome Trust. Dr. Naslund has over 140 peer-reviewed publications, including work featured in Lancet Psychiatry, New England Journal of Medicine, and the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, and is an Honorary Research Fellow with Sangath, a world leading NGO and research organization based in India. He is also co-director of the Mental Health for All Lab at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Naslund has a longstanding track record advocating for the rights, dignity, and quality of healthcare for those living with mental illness.