Problem-based, peer-to-peer global mental health e-learning between the UK and Somaliland: a pilot study

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Abstract

Background

WHO’s mental health gap action programme intervention guide (mhGAP-IG) is an evidence-based tool aimed at front-line health workers in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). Its potential to improve global mental health education, especially through digital technologies, has been little studied. Problem-based learning (PBL) is usually conducted face-to-face, but its remote application could facilitate cross-cultural education.

Objective

To evaluate PBL, applied to peer-to-peer global mental health e-learning (Aqoon), using mhGAP-IG.

Methods

Twelve pairs of UK and Somaliland medical students completed the full programme. Participants self-directedly met online, via the low-bandwidth Medicine Africa website, for PBL-style tutorials focused on modules of the mhGAP-IG, V.2.0. Preparticipation and postparticipation surveys used mixed methods to evaluate Aqoon, including the Attitudes Toward Psychiatry (ATP-30) instrument.

Findings

Median ATP-30 scores for Somaliland (82.0 vs 95.0, p=0.003) and UK students (82.0 vs 95.0, p=0.011) improved significantly following Aqoon. Qualitative feedback showed that participants valued peer connectivity and learning about cultural and psychosocial differences in their partner’s country. Somaliland students were motivated by clinical learning and UK students by global health education. Feedback on the PBL structure was positive.

Conclusions

Digital PBL represents an innovative method to extend the benefits of mhGAP-IG beyond front-line clinical staff, to healthcare students in LMICs.

Clinical implications

Educational resource limitations in LMICs may be overcome using digital platforms and PBL. Replication with non-medical healthcare students is the next step for this model to explore Aqoon’s relevance to pressing global mental health workforce challenges.

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