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Using Design Thinking and Implementation Science to Address Mental Health Service Gaps with Technology

MARCH 26, 2021

About the Presentation: In this presentation, we will describe the relevance of using human-centered design principles for digital mental health tools for diverse settings and populations. We will then demonstrate how these principles have been adapted and applied in a domestic prevention program serving Bhutanese and Somali Bantu refugees, and internationally with community health workers delivering an evidenced-based family home visiting intervention to prevent household violence among vulnerable families with children aged 6-36 months in Sierra Leone.

About the Presenters:

Theresa S. Betancourt, ScD, MA
Dr. Theresa S. Betancourt is the inaugural Salem Professor in Global Practice at the Boston College School of Social Work and Director of the Research Program on Children and Adversity (RPCA). She is the Principal Investigator of an intergenerational study of war-affected youth in Sierra Leone (LSWAY). This research led to the development of a group mental health intervention for war-affected youth that demonstrated effectiveness for improving emotion regulation, daily functioning and school functioning. This intervention, the Youth Readiness Intervention (YRI), is now at the core of a scale-up study within youth employment programs now underway in collaboration with GIZ (the German Development Agency) and Government of Sierra Leone as a part of the NIMH-funded Mental Health Services and Implementation Science Research Hub called Youth FORWARD. Dr. Betancourt has also developed and evaluated the impact of a Family Strengthening Intervention for children and families which was first tested with families affected by HIV and adapted to promote early childhood development and prevent violence among families living in extreme poverty in Rwanda. Dr. Betancourt and her team recently completed a large cluster randomized trial of the intervention Sugira Muryango as delivered by lay workers and linked to the Rwandan Government Social protection program which indicated effectiveness on outcomes of child development, responsive caregiving, father engagement and reductions in intimate partner violence and harsh punishment of children. Her team is currently working with the Government of Rwanda, the LEGO Foundation, and Grand Challenges Canada on implementation science to investigate a multi-level strategy (the PLAY Collaborative) to transition the intervention to scale across three Districts in the country. Domestically, she is engaged in community-based participatory research with Somali Bantu and Bhutanese refugee community partners which has demonstrated strong feasibility, acceptability and satisfaction of a family based preventive intervention delivered “by refugees for refugees” to improve parenting and promote mental health in refugee children and adolescents resettled in the U.S.

Candace J. Black, PhD
Dr. Candace J. Black is a postdoctoral research fellow with the Research Program on Children and Adversity at the Boston College School of Social Work. Her research focuses on a Refugee Behavioral Health program currently being evaluated with a Type 2 Hybrid Implementation-Effectiveness Randomized Controlled Trial. The Family Strengthening Intervention for Refugees (FSI-R), is a family-based prevention program originally developed and tested in Rwanda which has been adapted for Somali Bantu and Bhutanese refugees in New England. Dr. Black’s role involves applying implementation science to support fidelity, delivery, and adoption of the FSI-R. In collaboration with program manager, Jenna Berent, Dr. Black also coordinates the application of human-centered design principles to digitally adapt the FSI-R into a client-facing mobile application using co-design methodology.

Alethea Desrosiers, PhD
Dr. Alethea Desrosiers is a Research Assistant Professor in Global Practice at the Boston College School of Social Work, Research Program on Children and Adversity. She is also a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of Massachusetts with a range of clinical practice experience with diverse populations. Her research program has focused on the development, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based mental health interventions for disadvantaged youth and adults globally. Other specific research interests include applying human-centered design approaches to develop more effective mental health interventions and leveraging advances in technology to improve access to mental health services in low resource settings.