For more than a decade, Eve Puffer has traveled to western Kenya to train church and community leaders to support neighbors who are struggling with family and relationship issues, a key part of her work to address yawning gaps in the availability of mental health care in sub-Saharan Africa.
But even as she made those trips, Puffer, an assistant professor of psychology, neuroscience and global health, imagined that the models might have some value in places like the United States. After all, even wealthy countries struggle to provide timely and equitable access to mental health services.
As it turns out, COVID-19 provided both the need and the opportunity for Puffer to bring her work closer to home.
A few months into the pandemic, with her work in Kenya stalled by travel restrictions, Puffer received an email from Wendy Prudhomme-O’Meara, DGHI’s associate director for research. “DGHI was interested in taking what faculty were learning in low- and middle-income countries and seeing what could be beneficial locally during the pandemic,” says Puffer. “Our work, which is designed to be very community-based and delivered with few resources, seemed like a good candidate.”