The Intervention: Stories in Public Health podcast

The Intervention is a podcast, hosted by MSc Public Health student Mahan Sadjadi, that explores stories in health and healthcare around the world. Its central idea is to create a platform to tell personal stories, spark discussion and inspire creativity around issues in public health.

There will be different recurring series within the podcast. The format the podcast started with, “How I Got Here”, explores the stories of LSHTM students. Future episodes will also feature interviews with LSHTM faculty and researchers as well as external guests who discuss their own stories and issues they are passionate about.

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Episode 1

In this first episode of The Intervention, we explore the stories of Dr. Catalina Ocampo from Colombia and Dr. Jehangir Sheriff from Tanzania, who are both medical doctors and currently study the MSc Public Health at LSHTM.

We start with Catalina. She talks about growing up in difficult times, how her path was influenced by a social service year after medical school, and about how being confronted with issues around healthcare and patient autonomy expanded her interest beyond medicine and informed her choice of getting into public health. Jehangir, who is the second guest in this episode, talks about the role his father played in his life, how being confronted with differences in health equity informed his choices, and how frustrations and a feeling of helplessness almost drove him to quit medicine before a few key realizations led to a new perspective on health and his career.

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Episode 2

Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals dedicate their careers to caring for the health of others – sometimes at the cost of their own health and wellbeing. In this episode of The Intervention, Dr. Talha Khalid from Pakistan tells the story of how his personal path and experiences led him to get into public health. Based on his story, we explore how mental health affects the lives and careers of healthcare professionals and discuss ways to promote progress in this important area.

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28 November-5th December 2019

Peter Piot discusses what it will take to tackle the challenges in the next stage of ending the HIV and AIDS epidemic by 2030 in The Conversation’s Pasha podcast. Peter said: “One of the lessons is to listen more carefully to people – what their context is, their circumstances and what they think is needed… We need to adapt services to people rather than expecting people to adapt to services.”

Andy Haines writes in the Telegraph (£) about how climate change must be considered a health emergency. Andy said: “There must also be a sea-change in our rhetoric, attitudes and actions, from world leaders, health professionals and the public.”

Rachel Lowe speaks to the Guardian about developing dengue forecasting systems as climate change contributes to increased outbreaks. Rachel said: “We are trying to improve preparedness so we can estimate six months in advance where you can go and target limited vector control and make sure health facilities know there is an epidemic under way.”

Heidi Larson takes part in a Q&A with Nature, calling for dialogue to reassure people about the safety and efficiency of vaccines. Heidi said: “Having accurate, clear and honest information is fundamental, but it’s not enough to change people’s minds. This is also about emotions, opinions and feelings. The worst thing to do is tell people they’re ignorant or stupid. Often we’re talking about people’s children, and we should remember that all parents want the best for their child.”

Edward Parker talks to the Guardian about progress on developing more stable polio vaccines. Edward said: “If they prove safe and effective in regions still affected by polio, these vaccines could be a key breakthrough in finally consigning this disease to the history books.”

Stephen Evans talks to the Daily Mail about the need for greater study into the link between aspirin use and cancer prevention. Stephen said: “It is almost misleading to emphasise the word “trial” for these results, since aspirin use was not part of the trial of screening… This is essentially an observational study.”

Martin McKee speaks to BBC News about insurance firms increasingly equating vaping with smoking. Martin said: “I think it’s taken some time, but I’m not really surprised, because the evidence is growing that e-cigarettes are much more hazardous than some people had thought.”

Jimmy Whitworth talks to the Sun about the low risk of Monkeypox in the UK. Jimmy said: “The infection is not easily transmitted between people… the key public health measures are to isolate the patient and to identity and follow up on any close contacts.”

Jimmy was also interviewed by Channel 5 News. 

Jorge Cano speaks to Hoy Digital about ways in which climate change is increasing outbreaks. Jorge said: “If measures are not taken, climate change will cause an increase in these diseases in their area of origin, but also with dengue we must think about epidemic outbreaks in Europe and the United States.”

Julian Eaton writes in African Arguments about the lessons learnt which could improve the lives of people with mental health problems in Africa. Julian said: “It is essential to take a holistic approach to health, whereby mental health is assessed alongside physical health.”

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Alumni Photo Competition

We’re delighted to announce the return of our popular Alumni Photo Competition with a special edition celebrating the School’s anniversary and 120 years of health innovation.

We’re looking for images that tell the story of the breadth and depth of both the work in the field and the research being carried out by our alumni worldwide.

All you have to do is to submit a photo that captures something interesting happening in the  realm of public health wherever you are in the world. There’s a broad theme of health innovation for the competition but we interested to see entries that relate to one or more of these topics:

  • A heritage of health innovation
  • The future of health innovation
  • Health innovation in your community
  • Women in health innovation

The entries will be considered by a panel of staff from around the School and all eligible entries will be added to the LSHTM Archive’s image library.

One winner will be chosen to receive a parcel of goodies from LSHTM and their photo will be featured on the front cover of next year’s magazine, which is distributed to thousands of alumni around the world annually.

The deadline for submitting photos is Friday 31st January and the winner will be notified by Friday 28th February.  Entries should be emailed to alumni@lshtm.ac.uk with the subject line ‘Alumni Photo Competition 2020’.

Competition Guidelines:

Alumni may enter a maximum of three photographs per category. Only alumni of the School may enter the competition.

Entries must be in JPEG format and emailed to alumni@lshtm.ac.uk with “Alumni Photo Competition” in the subject line.

In the email please include: your full name; the date the photograph was taken; course studied at the School and year graduated; an up-to-date phone number; and your current job position and organisation if applicable (only your full name, course studied and year graduated will be made public).

Please provide a caption for your photos (maximum 40 words) – this will be included in the Alumni magazine and may appear in other print and digital publications and on social media. The caption may be edited.

If identifiable individuals appear in your photo, please ensure that you have their permission before submission. The owner of the winning entry will be asked to provide written consent of any identifiable individuals granting permission us to use the photograph in the Alumni magazine, in other print and digital publications and on social media.

Photos must be in colour only and have been taken within the last three years.

Entries will be judged on originality, quality, composition and appropriateness to the theme.

All entries will appear on the School’s photo library, Assetbank, which is accessible to School staff and students, and the Alumni Flickr page, which is open to the public.

Entries may be selected to appear on the School’s website and social media platforms, which are open to the public.

The winning entry will appear in the 2018 edition of the School’s annual alumni magazine, Alumni News.

Entries may be used for promotional purposes e.g. School website, social media, Annual Report, Chariot, prospectus, exhibitions, postcards and others.

Copyright – by entering the competition, competitors warrant that they own the copyright in their photograph and they give consent to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine to store the image and reproduce it in any School-related publication or medium.

If the winning photo does not fit the format necessary for the magazine cover, we reserve the right to use another photo (either from other photo entries or from another source).

Shining a light on the dark side of coproduction

by Kathryn Oliver, Anita Kothari and Nicholas Mays

Advocacy of co-produced research

Many, if not most applied research projects, are undertaken with some degree of collaboration between researchers and ‘stakeholders’, who include research funders, policymakers or practitioners, members of the public and civil society, or other actors such as patients in health studies. This collaboration takes various forms (e.g. consulting on research topics, or working iteratively throughout the research process), and in general, people feel positively about it. Funders often require it, or at least support it, and researchers have argued that it is the most effective way to ensure that evidence is used or translated into practice. Today, there are many forms of collaborative research practice, including co-production, co-design, co-creation, stakeholder and public engagement, participation/involvement and integrated knowledge translation which sit under this umbrella.  They reflect a very diverse set of motivations, activities, identities and discourses about how research interacts with the rest of society. Here we use ‘co-production’ as shorthand to discuss these practices, but acknowledge the diversity and differences in the above.

People argue that collaborative and co-productive research

Facing up to the challenges and costs of co-production

Undoubtedly, making research more relevant and used is the aim for many applied researchers, and their attempts to do so and document this are laudable. There is a need to help uncover if, when, and how collaboration is the best way to achieve this (normative) aim.

Firstly, there is very limited empirical evidence about whether collaborative research does lead to improved uptake of findings – even if we could agree what that looks like in reality.

Secondly, collaborative research brings significant challenges. Collaborative research may be more uncertain, slower, or less innovative than non-collaborative research. These challenges and related costs may be experienced throughout the research process, as the lists below indicates.

Challenges of coproduction

Developing mixed research teams

  • Stakeholders not homogeneous, and can disagree
  • ‘Usual suspects’ can take over, where coproductive discussions are dominated by certain individuals

Framing research questions

  • Stakeholders and researchers may have different priorities and values
  • Useful research can lack originality
  • Research can be co-opted by partners, for example, to justify status quo or historical decisions

Collecting data

  • Researchers may pressure stakeholders to allow their organisational resources to be used to facilitate data collection – e.g. using staff time or applying pressure for site access

Analysing and interpreting data

  • Stakeholders may want to know which participant agreed to participate or what they contributed to the dataset
  • Stakeholders may want to help analyse the data

Formulating recommendations

  • May be little agreement about the importance of research
  • Researchers may be pressed to frame findings in particular ways

Disseminating research

  • Researchers or stakeholders may be prevented from sharing unwanted findings
  • Stakeholders may want to share findings before researchers are ready

Implementing change

  • Tension between advocating for research, or advocating for policy/practice changes
  • Researchers show little interest in providing assistance with implementation efforts

Costs of coproduction

Developing mixed research teams

  • The research process may take more time compared to a traditional research process
  • Shared decision-making is threatened when process dominated by certain voices or interests

Framing research questions

  • Damage to interpersonal or organisational relationships
  • Damage to research careers
  • Damage to researcher independence and credibility

Collecting data

  • Damage to interpersonal or organisational relationships, particularly with more powerful stakeholders

Analysing and interpreting data

  • Violation of research ethics obligations
  • Researcher needs to train stakeholders and format data in an appropriate way to conform with research ethics obligations

Formulating recommendations

  • Findings are misrepresented
  • Damage to researcher independence and credibility

Disseminating research

  • Damage to researcher independence and credibility
  • Damage to the credibility of the research process

Implementing change

  • Can damage relationship with practice or policy colleagues
  • Implementation of research findings fail

Finally, there are other very significant potential costs of co-production, which, in our experience are often unequally borne by junior, untenured, female members of staff.

  • Practical and administrative resources such as the time required to arrange meetings with busy people for whom research is not their primary activity. Managing group dynamics in such meetings can require interpersonal skills with which researchers may not be endowed.
  • Stressful interpersonal interactions: these can be dismissed as mere relational difficulties. We must take the potential for disagreement, conflict, reputational risk and power imbalances seriously as part of the research process. The consequences of mismanaging these are severe.
  • Individual researchers already have to balance their teaching, research and administrative responsibilities. Developing another set of professional skills and networks to create collaborative research projects with real world impact is simply too great a leap for some. The implication of this is that some or all of the co-production activities related to a research project could be led by a specialist in knowledge transfer and exchange rather than by members of the research team. This approach has been advocated and implemented by some.
  • Some feel that taking part in applied, highly collaborative research can lead to researchers becoming, or seeming partisan and biased, or as academic “lightweights” producing little of substance
  • The research outputs themselves may be co-opted to serve the political agendas of others. Co-produced research findings (possibly no different from any research) can be appropriated and used to serve the self-interest of more powerful groups. Some groups lack the skills to engage in the use and promotion of research findings so lose out to more skilled and better connected groups. There is also the risk that co-produced research is more likely than other forms of research to produce findings biased in favour of prevailing norms of what is ‘correct’. This last type of research leads to repetitious, ‘safe’ research

What do we need to do differently?

We may be able to avoid some of these costs, or they may be an intrinsic part of collaborative processes, in which case we need to work out the best balance between costs and benefits.

Armed with a better understanding of the costs and benefits of co-production, those planning new projects should be much better placed consistently to ask themselves:

  1. What is everyone bringing to the table? For example, policy-makers and funders bring money, knowledge of the political context, pressure for answers; researchers bring topic and methodological expertise; the public and patients bring their experiences.
  2. Under which circumstances are these resources needed, for what purpose, and at which stages of the research process? For example, when is it better to have patient representatives articulate the user perspective rather than derive understanding from a systematic review of patient experiences?
  3. What are the costs, and how will they be borne and defrayed by those involved?
  4. How will decisions about the direction of the research be taken, and how will responsibility and accountability for decisions be shared? Will group dynamics, market forces, formal authority or some other basis be used? In turn, how will this be governed?

In parallel, research organisations and funders also need to consider:

  1. How to create (co-create) and support the infrastructure and leadership for co-production
  2. How to provide training in co-production, and help interested researchers and funders take this seriously as a necessary skill
  3. How to reward good practice, and to recognise the work co-production may take even if it does not lead to research impact
  4. How to evaluate the potential impact(s) of co-production
  5. How to ensure that co-production supports diversity and quality in research and policy

Conclusion

Co-production is an exciting approach to research that can, with care, generate truly novel, unexpected findings and impacts. Yet it takes time and investment, and there is still little evidence about how co-production changes research, policy or practice, or how it compares to alternatives. We think more reflection about how, why and when we do co-production would be helpful, as would more discussion about how co-production influences the process of research, and the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved in collaborations. Ultimately, we need to be clear about how and why exactly we work with each other, to transform evidence for society.

This blog grows from a paper by the authors published in Health Research Policy and Systems 2019: 17: 33  https://doi.org/10.1186/s12961-019-0432-3

Kathryn Oliver is Associate Professor of Sociology and Public Health, Department of Public Health, Environments and Society, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK

Anita Kothari is Associate Professor, School of Health Studies, University of Western Ontario, Canada

Nicholas Mays is Director of the Policy Innovation and Evaluation Research Unit (PIRU) and Professor of Health Policy, Department of Health Services Research & Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK

 

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14-27 November 2019

Harriet Forbes speaks to the Times (£) about her work indicating an increased risk of dementia diagnosis in the months following partner bereavement. Harriet said: “We think simply that it may be that your partner has been covering for you… After their death perhaps you will also be in contact with GP services and your family more, together increasing the chance of undiagnosed dementia getting noticed.”

Sinéad Langan and Kate Mansfield’s research exploring links between atopic eczema and increased fracture risk was featured by Newsweek, Daily Mail, International Business Times and PulseSinéad said: “Previous research has shown associations between atopic eczema and osteoporosis, and between atopic eczema and fracture. However, this is the first evidence that eczema precedes fractures and that fracture risk increases with more severe eczema.”

Grace Ryan talks to the BBC World Service (from 16:02) about how creative solutions, such as friendship benches, can help to tackle mental health in developing countries. Grace said: “By looking further afield, we can discover something really exciting and transformative that could improve mental healthcare all over the world.”

Julian Eaton talks to Devex about the importance of mental health and ensuring it is prioritised on the global health and development agenda. Julian said: “As interest and investment in mental health grows, it’s essential that we work toward pragmatic but principled solutions.”

Peter Piot talks to the Telegraph about the Cube, a portable Ebola treatment unit developed by Richard Kojan, winner of an innovation award at the Reach the Last Mile Forum. Peter said: “This allows a better dialogue with patients and it brings back the humanity. It’s a game-changer for caring for patients with Ebola and other highly infectious diseases.”

Heather Wardle speaks to the Guardian about HSBC’s decision to allow customers to stop themselves placing bets online. Heather said: “The financial sector is a key enabler of the gambling industry – without them online gambling couldn’t exist. So it’s right that banks and other financial institutions take the protection of people from gambling harms seriously.”

Johanna Hanefield discusses her research on perceptions of AMR in Pakistan with the Express Tribune. Johanna said: “We performed a framing analysis to look at how the issue of AMR is presented…we found that economic cost and human security narratives are the most dominant frames.”

Tom Shakespeare discusses the ethical questions surrounding genetically modifying human embryos with BBC Radio Scotland (from 01:00). Tom said: “It would introduce huge risks, and also open up the door to very socially divisive opportunities.”

Heidi Larson discusses the factors behind public distrust of vaccines and why communication is key in Rachel Botsman’s Trust Issues podcast (Part 1). Heidi said: “If there’s a critical inflection point, it’s to do the best to be open and have a conversation.”

Martin McKee speaks to the Telegraph and the Daily Mail about the dangers of misrepresenting the health effects of Vaping products. In the Telegraph, Martin said: “Even if you accept Public Health England’s claim that e-cigarettes are 95 per cent safer than conventional ones – which hardly any health organisation outside England does – they are still hazardous.”

On social media:

This week’s social media highlight comes from Twitter, where our #WorldToiletDay post was the featured tweet in Global Health NOW news:

Mystery shoppers for healthcare providers: risky or rewarding in measuring quality of care?

By Jessica King (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine)

The million-dollar question

How can we best measure quality of care? It’s the million-dollar question which those of us working in health systems and quality improvement would love to answer. So much of our time and effort is expended in trying to make the care that patients receive better, but it’s hard to say exactly what better care means, and then to measure the results.

That’s the void into which the standardised patient was introduced: a mystery shopper, but for health facilities. People pretending to be patients isn’t new; they’ve been used as a training tool for decades, and medical students will be familiar with standardised patients in their practical exams. What’s new is the idea that we can send standardised patients to doctors in real settings, and send them undercover- to measure how health workers behave when they don’t know they are being observed.

This raises a number of ethical, as well as practical, questions. Is there a danger to our fieldworkers when we send them to seek care in often basic settings? Does the deception of doctors by standardised patients violate norms of informed consent in medical research? Are we wasting the limited time and resources of health facilities by sending healthy people for consultations and to buy drugs?

Potential risks and challenges

Those of us who use standardised patients in our work would argue that the risks are outweighed by the huge benefit of good data on quality of care which no other measurement tool can provide. As well as avoiding the Hawthorne effect (when people change their behaviour because they’re being observed), they allow the researcher to control the patient and disease mix, avoiding confounding and meaning that the treatment of rarer conditions be investigated without the need of long observation periods waiting for the right patient to turn up in a health facility . And importantly, in our new Editor’s choice paper we explain how many of the risks can be mitigated and minimised.

We also discuss the practical challenges faced in organising a standardised patient survey. How can healthy people pretend to be ill? You have to carefully select conditions so that obvious visual symptoms aren’t required. We suggest scenarios which work: a person who reports a history of coughing, night sweats and weight loss should be treated as a potential TB patient and referred for testing, regardless of whether they look unwell or the doctor can hear ‘crackles’ on the chest.

A creative approach is sometimes required; for example, if you’re interested in the quality of malaria case management, you can’t send real malaria patients into health facilities. What we do instead is train our standardised patients to say they have a fever and think they have malaria- and the thing we test is whether or not they’re offered a test, and whether the test gives the correct (negative!) result.

Still, it’s important to ask how good standardised patients are at convincing doctors – is it ever obvious from their behaviour and appearance that they aren’t real? One way to answer this question is to conduct a detection survey. After the standardised patient visits are all finished, researchers contact the health facilities and ask if they suspected any recent patients were actually standardised patients. If the answer is yes, we take more details so we can confirm whether their suspicions were correct. In a recent study I carried out in Tanzania, 5% of our standardised patients were detected by health workers, but this varied by setting; in busy urban facilities detection rates were lower, but in rural settings where the presence of an outsider was more obvious, they were more likely to be detected.

Conclusion

Yes, standardised patients aren’t a perfect tool- they can’t be used to measure all quality of care (it’s hard to imagine how they could check on the quality of antenatal and delivery care, for example!) and they’re more challenging to implement than patient exit interviews. But the depth and richness of the data they give us make them well worth the extra effort.


Access the paper in Health Policy and Planning.

Image credit: Jessica King

Alumni researchers: Investigating TB in sub-Saharan Africa

A team of researchers, led by LSHTM alumnus Benjamin Momo Kadia, are proposing to conduct the first evidence review and synthesis investigating the barriers to and enablers of uptake of and adherence to antiretroviral therapy in the context of integrated treatment for TB/HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, where the burden of TB/HIV co-infection is highest.

“The World Health Organisation’s global tuberculosis (TB) report of 2019 revealed that in 2018, 1.5 million people had died from TB. Most of these patients were co-infected with the HIV virus. An important intervention, which is being scaled up to limit the burden of TB and HIV co-infection is the delivery of concurrent treatment of both infections by one health team, at the same location and at the same time. This is referred to as integrated TB/HIV treatment. The degrees of uptake of and adherence to antiretroviral therapy are very important indicators of the quality and treatment outcomes of this intervention. However, these indicators and their determinants remain unclear in sub-Saharan Africa where the burden of HIV and TB co-infection is highest.

Benjamin Momo Kadia, a 2018/2019 MSc Public Health for Development alumnus, had conceived the idea of using a systematic approach to identify, critically appraise and synthesise published evidence on the barriers to and enablers of uptake of and adherence to antiretroviral therapy in the context of integrated treatment of TB and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Benjamin was inspired by challenges which he had experienced as coordinator of an HIV care clinic in his home country, Cameroon. His collaborators in this project are Christian Akem Dimala (2015/2016 MSc Public Health for Development alumnus), Noah Fongwen Takah (Senior Clinical Research Fellow at LSHTM) and Professor Adrian Smith of the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford. The protocol for this research project was recently published with the BMJ Publishing Group.

The authors of this systematic literature review intend to use the findings of their research to identify key intervention points in the integrated HIV/TB treatment continuum.  They will be looking for potential improvements to the uptake of and adherence to antiretroviral therapy and ultimately, survival among HIV/TB co-infected patients.”

Benjamin Momo Kadia describes what he hopes to achieve in the future.

“I would like to use this opportunity to advocate for more collaborative research among LSHTM alumni from low-income settings. This will be a great avenue through which these alumni will truly be at the forefront of research, innovation and development in their home countries.

“I hope to strengthen mentoring and collaborative networks for early career researchers in sub-Saharan Africa, and to encourage physicians in this setting to engage in health research. In this light, I am pleased to have been selected as an AIDS 2020 Mentor by the International AIDS Society. In this capacity, I provide technical and intellectual guidance to less experienced researchers from resource-limited settings.  The mentoring programme aims to increase their chances of showcasing their research at the International AIDS Conference, which is the world’s largest and most influential meeting on HIV research.”

To find out more, please visit the published project on BMJ Publishing Group.

Lunchtime sessions: Literature Searching

InfoSkills Lunchtime sessions: Literature Searching – book now!

From Mon 2nd December to Fri 6th December.

Book a place on any session at http://bit.do/infoskills .

Who should attend:

  • MSC students who do not have literature searching sessions scheduled in your MSc programme timetable: please sign up these sessions.
  • MSc students who have already had literature searching training and want to have a refresher session, you are also welcome to sign up.

IMPORTANT: if you have a library / literature searching session as part of your MSc programme coming up (e.g. Public Health, FPHN, PH4D, TMIH, HPPF) then please attend your course programme sessions instead as these will be targeted to your subject areas: so you do not need to attend these lunchtime sessions.

 

These sessions are repeated on each day. You can choose to attend Part 1 and Part 2 on the same day as a two-hour session, or attend Part 1 on one day and then Part two on another day. Just choose whichever approach works best for your timetable!

The Lunchtime InfoSkills Sessions cover:

  1. Constructing a Literature Search Strategy. Part 1: search concepts, search terms & building your search:
  • Selecting search concepts & keywords/search terms
  • Choosing the right resources to search (OVID Medline will be the main database used in these sessions)
  • Using Boolean logic to structure an effective search
  • How to use search tools (including truncation, wildcards and proximity searching)
  1. Constructing a Literature Search Strategy. Part 2: subject headings, filters, transferring your search:
  • Subject headings: what are they? Why do you need to use them? How do you include them in your search strategy?
  • Using search filters and limits
  • Running your search & transferring it across databases
  • Finding full text – what if LSHTM library doesn’t have what I need?
  • Planning & managing your information – get organised & save time!

Comments from previous years’ attendees:

“really great course”

“overall very good and very helpful”

“it’s fab”

We will also be running more of the above sessions near the exams in May/June 2020 (details will be made available via the bookings page above nearer the time).

NB – you can still make a one to one appointment with a librarian to discuss your own search strategy.

If you have any questions on the above sessions, please contact us via ServiceDesk or email us at: library@lshtm.ac.uk

Alumni Innovators: Victor Ugo

Victor Ugo is Senior Campaign Officer at United for Global Mental Health and Founder of the Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI).  He studied MSc Global Mental Health at LSHTM. We asked him about his experience of the School and how he uses innovation in his work.

Why did you decide to study at LSHTM?

For its international reputation, but more significantly, it is the leading institution in global mental health and one of few places that offer a Master’s in this field.

How has your degree at LSHTM complemented your career?

Prior to this MSc, I had the lived experience of a mental health issue, but this degree added a learned experience which has helped to shape the direction of my career and my goals.

Apart from the expertise, I am able to speak much more confidently in professional settings. I am equipped with the knowledge of understanding my condition as well as understanding the evidence surrounding the work I’ve done, that I’m doing and that I intend to do. I now have knowledge of mental health research which can help me in the design and implementation of new innovations.

And what does innovation mean to you?

For me, innovation means taking a problem that you are extremely passionate about, and one in your most immediate environment, learning what you can about it and doing everything you can to make it better. It’s a simple concept that, if applied by everyone, would rid the world of its many issues.

How can innovation solve challenges in global health?

Innovation in global health means applying contextually-relevant solutions to existing problems. It is a simple case of addressing challenges or problems where you find them, to ensure the solution is effective, appropriate and sustainable.

How do you use innovation in your work?

When I started my organisation, Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI), I acknowledged how under-resourced the mental health space was in Nigeria, but I also understood that I had to do things differently if we were to make sustainable impact. So, I decided to make use of a model that allowed people to take ownership of the growth of the organisation and one that didn’t require a lot of financial resources.

It was also important to identify our target group and one that assured us of a faster and more impactful route towards sustained growth. I did some initial research to understand how influencers in Nigeria worked and learnt how they would all get on the same WhatsApp or Facebook group and on these groups, everyone is mandated to re-post a message or hashtag until it starts trending, regardless of who was paid to promote it. So, I used this influencer-based model to create an advocacy program that had people volunteering their social media pages, where they volunteered to share and retweet any post from our social media pages to reach a wider audience.

Over time, this became an organic process where people started to share our posts naturally. This helped us grow our presence on social media and kickstart our campaigns. Of course, the posts had to be quality but simple posts that could maintain the attention of readers.

Another example, of using innovation in my work is when we coordinated a one-month virtual summit in October 2018 for World Mental Health Day. This virtual summit was the biggest in Africa and had a reach on Twitter of more than 4.2 million, with 50 topics discussed every day for 5 days and more than 6,000 people in conversation over those five days. The budget for this, including promotion and flyers was 350 US Dollars, but the impact was resonating, with our volunteer base tripling.

What advice do you have for current students?

My advice for students is to work on developing transferable skills. I would encourage them to make efforts to build their network, to take risks and to expand their skillets. While academic skills are of utmost importance, it is also important to remember that these other skills will serve them well as they progress in their career.