Healthy Minds for Adolescent Mothers: Achieving Healthy Outcomes

In low and middle income countries, 25% of pregnant women and 19% of new mothers experience depression. This affects not only the mother’s health, but her ability to care for her child, and therefore the health of her children even from birth. Depressed women are 2.1 times more likely to give birth to a low birthweight infant. In childhood, stunting is increased by 40% among children of depressed mothers.

Adolescent and young mothers are particularly at risk, given the highest burden of poor mental health occurs just as young people are establishing the social, cultural, emotional, educational, and economic resources on which they will depend to maintain health and wellbeing for the rest of their lives. Seventy five percent of mental health disorders start before age 24. Adolescence is also when people experience exaggerated forms of gender discrimination that can profoundly and negatively affect both girls and boys, but can particularly limit the ability for girls to choose their own path. Suicide is now the leading cause of death amongst adolescent girls.

Only a fraction of mental health needs are met in low- and middle-income countries, where scarce resources and a shortage of trained professionals limit access to evidence-based approaches to address mental health. Even in contexts where mental health services exist, mothers and adolescents are often unwilling or unable to access them due to widespread stigma and discrimination, and in the case of adolescents, a failure for these services to be youth friendly.

What we are looking for:

In partnership with Grand Challenges Canada, we seek bold ideas to meet the mental health needs of the poorest and most vulnerable adolescent and young mothers. We are specifically seeking innovative approaches that leverage technology, social groups and social media to develop the skills and protective factors necessary to successfully navigate life, transition to motherhood, and early detection and treatment of mental health disorders. These approaches will necessarily need to break down stigma and limit damaging gender norms. All approaches should engage end users and stakeholders from the outset, optimizing the intervention design for scale and sustainability. Funding for seed and transition-to-scale projects will be considered. Applicants should specify which type of project they are proposing.

We will consider approaches that:

Consider how the needs of adolescent and young mothers may differ from other populations;
Enable the health and empowerment of young women as an important goal unto itself, and also recognize the dependence of a child’s healthy development on the health and empowerment of their mother;
Creatively use channels for information that are highly used and trusted by youth and mothers;
Tackle the main causes of stigma and discrimination for marginalized and vulnerable mothers and adolescents with mental disorders;
Use innovative approaches to deploy the required human resources in an efficient manner.
We will not consider funding for:

Approaches that do not meaningfully involve mothers and adolescents in their design, testing and evaluation;
Approaches not directly relevant to mothers and adolescents in low-income settings;
Discovery science, capacity building initiatives or ongoing programmatic funding;
Applications proposing basic research without clear relevance to the goals of this topic;
Ideas without a clearly articulated and testable hypothesis and metrics;
Ideas for which the described indicator of success cannot be demonstrated within the scope of the GCE Phase 1 award ($100,000 over 18 months);
Proposals involving clinical trials in human volunteers or patients or large-scale field trials at this time, unless those studies can reasonably be expected to be completed within the timeline and budget of the GCE Phase I award.

In collaboration with Grand Challenges Canada

GC Canada

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