Canada Gairdner Global Health Symposium

by Gita Jaffe

CEThe 2019 Canada Gairdner Global Health Symposium was hosted by the Gairdner Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, SickKids Centre for Global Child Health and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) on October 23, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. The symposium’s theme, Community-based Health Interventions: From Global to Local highlighted speakers from around the world including: Vikram Patel (2018 Global Alliance Presidential Award Winner); Vandana Gopikumar founder of the Banyan and the Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health; Vicky Stegiopoulos the Physician-in-Chief at CAMH who focusses on the development and evaluation of interventions to address the needs of people who are homeless (including mental health); Abhijit Nadkarni an addictions psychiatrist and global mental health researcher who focusses on developing and evaluating interventions for alcohol use disorders in low resource settings; Takeesha White, Founding Director of the Friendship Benches NYC, Renee Linklater the Director of Shkaabe Makwa, a program that supports First Nations, Inuit and Métis wellness at CAMH and Daisy Singla, one of the youngest winners of a study from the Patient Centred Outcome Research Institute (PCORI) focussing on scaling up evidence-based psychological treatments to enrich the lives of women and their families worldwide. The speakers identified personal pathways towards their current professional efforts.

The various research and programs discussed demonstrated approaches to tackling existing gaps in- and barriers to- behavioral health and wellbeing. Below are a few concepts that were discussed among the panelists:

  • The interface of professional identity with action (locally and abroad) and understanding the opportunity for synergies between action and academy. As barriers to success were discussed around the globe, the consistent understanding was that every country needs to address gaps in achieving wellbeing.
  • The shared goal among stakeholders interested in mental health (and arguably any issue) is critical to finding solutions and encouraging action. Despite differences in approach and opinion, the opportunity to collaborate on a shared vision (wellbeing) is central. 
  • In understanding that increasing access to behavioral health services globally must include non-specialist mental health care, emphasis on cultural context and cross-cultural relevance is required. The engagement of civil society is critical to progress. Finally, solutions are found where policy, culture, practice and academy intersect.
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