Improving mental and neurological health research in Latin America: a qualitative study

Fiestas, Fabián; Gallo, Carla; Poletti, Giovanni; Bustamante, Inés; Alarcón, Renato D.; Mari, Jair J.; Razzouk, Denise; Olifson, Sylvie; Mazzotti, Guido
January 2009
BMC Public Health;2009, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p334
Academic Journal
Background: Research evidence is essential to inform policies, interventions and programs, and yet research activities in mental and neurological (MN) health have been largely neglected, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Many challenges have been identified in the production and utilization of research evidence in Latin American countries, and more work is needed to overcome this disadvantageous situation. This study aims to address the situation by identifying initiatives that could improve MN health research activities and implementation of their results in the Latin American region. Methods: Thirty-four MN health actors from 13 Latin American countries were interviewed as part of an initiative by the Global Forum for Health Research and the World Health Organization to explore the status of MN health research in low- and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin-America. Results: A variety of recommendations to increase MN health research activities and implementation of their results emerged in the interviews. These included increasing skilled human resources in MN health interventions and research, fostering greater participation of stakeholders in the generation of research topics and projects, and engendering the interest of national and international institutions in important MN health issues and research methodologies. In the view of most participants, government agencies should strive to have research results inform the decision-making process in which they are involved. Thus these agencies would play a key role in facilitating and funding research. Participants also pointed to the importance of academic recognition and financial rewards in attracting professionals to primary and translational research in MN health. In addition, they suggested that institutions should create intramural resources to provide researchers with technical support in designing, carrying out and disseminating research, including resources to improve scientific writing skills. Conclusion: Fulfillment of these recommendations would increase research production in MN health in Latin American countries. This, in turn, will raise the profile of these health problems, and consequently will underscore the need of continued high-quality and relevant research, thus fostering a virtuous cycle in the decision-making process to improve MN health care.


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