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To what extent does South African mental health and substance abuse research address priority issues?

Flisher, Alan J. ; Parry, Charles D. H. ; Stein, Dan J. (2000-04)


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CITATION: Flisher, A.J., Parry, C.D.H., & Stein, D,J. 2000. To what extent does South African mental health and substance abuse research address priority issues? South African Medical Journal, 90(4):378-380.


Objective. To investigate the extent to which South African mental health research addresses priority issues. Design. Cross-sectional survey of conference presentations. Setting. The most recent conferences of the following professional societies: the Epidemiological Society of Southern Africa, the Psychological Society of South Africa, the Society of Psychiatrists of South Africa, and the South African Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines. Main outcome measures. Whether the presentations addressed priority areas as defined in the list 'Selected priority areas of research' compiled by the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Thrust of the Medical Research Council, and if so which priority areas were addressed. Results. There were 627 presentations, with 267 (43%) on mental health or substance abuse. Seventy-eight papers (29%) reported original research in a priority area identified by the Medical Research Council. Of these, 73 (94%) were on mental health and 5 (6%) were on substance abuse. Of the 73 papers on mental health, 33 (45%) addressed topics in health problem research, 7 (10%) aetiology research, 22 (30%) intervention research, and 11 (15%) operational and health systems research. Conclusion. Much South African mental health research does not address priority issues. There is a particular dearth of research addressing substance abuse research priorities. Funding mechanisms and research capacity development initiatives could help to rectify the situation.

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