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Global mental health project led by King's wins € 5.8m award

Mental Health and Poverty Project, 2009

Mental Health and Poverty Project, 2009

An international consortium of scientists, led by King’s College London's Institute of Psychiatry has launched the EMERALD global mental health project to improve mental health systems in low- and middle-income countries. The project is funded with € 5.8m from the European Union's ‘Seventh Framework’ Programme (FP7/2007-2013).

EMERALD (emerging mental health systems in low- and middle-income countries) brings together collaborators from Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa & Uganda. The objective of the EMERALD Project is to improve mental health outcomes by enhancing health systems.

The project therefore addresses the following key issues: it aims to establish adequate, fair and sustainable resourcing, integrated provision of physical and mental health, and improved coverage of care.

The consortium is committed to taking the health system strengthening steps necessary for its realization in Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa & Uganda.

At the meeting to launch the EMERALD project, Professor Graham Thornicroft, Head of the Health Service and Population Research (HSPR) Department at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry and coordinator of the EMERALD consortium comments: “This award is an invaluable opportunity to develop a clearer understanding of how to strengthen mental health systems in low income countries to provide more and better care. We have a long way to go. In such countries as few as 2% of people with mental illness receive any treatment or care. EMERALD will accelerate progress to close this mental health gap.”

Health systems the world over are facing ever greater demands and challenges, driven in part by technological advances and consumer expectations, but also by ageing populations, emerging epidemics and fiscal constraints. 

The health systems of low- and middle-income countries (LAMICs) are particularly strained, due to the lower availability of resources and the higher overall burden of disease in these populations (compared to high-income countries). 

Many LAMICs are in fact facing an epidemiological transition or 'double burden' of disease, as declining, but still disconcertingly high, levels of mortality due to communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions are being replaced or matched by increasing rates of chronic non-communicable disease (NCD), including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and mental disorders.

Professor Atalay Alem from Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia) comments: “In Ethiopia, the government is committed to scaling up mental health care to the population, having just launched its first National Mental Health Strategy. We’re in the process of studying the best way to implement this strategy on the ground, through task sharing mental health care with primary care workers. What EMERALD will bring to these efforts is a critically important focus on the higher level systems and structures needed to support this model of mental health care delivery in a sustainable and equitable way.”

Besides King’s College London, other partners of the EMERALD consortium are the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (Spain), the World Health Organization, Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia), the Public Health Foundation of India, Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO, Nepal), University of Ibadan (Nigeria), University of Cape Town (South Africa), University of KwaZulu Natal (South Africa), Butabika National Mental Hospital (Uganda) and HealthNet TPO (The Netherlands). The research of the international consortium will be managed and supported in administrative issues by the German SME GABO:mi (Munich).

The Centre for Global Mental Health is a joint venture between King’s College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and its joint directors are Professor Martin Prince (King’ College London) and Professor Vikram Patel (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine). 

For further information, please contact Seil Collins, Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, email: or tel: 0207 848 5377